Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kimber An's Top Ten Books for 2008

I've been a little distracted lately.
Heck, if you told me the publishing industry was in crisis right now, I'd probably respond by thrusting a little pink baby dress in your face and croon, "Isn't this adorable?" But, I figured I'd better come down out of the clouds long enough to tell you all about my Top Ten Books. It's good for the authors to get their books bought new right now and it's good for you all to find some great books to give as holiday presents. And so, without further ado, my Top Ten Books-

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Oh, wait. One little preface. Our policy here at Enduring Romance is to only review books we like. This is because our goal is to help readers find the books they'll love. It doesn't make a lick of sense to me to read and review books I don't like. I don't have the time and readers aren't looking for books they'll hate. So, if you don't find anything you like in my Top Ten list or the lists of the other reviewers, scroll down to the archive and check out all our other reviews. Our books were all good books and tastes vary. I had a really hard time choosing the Top Ten this year!

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Okay, now I really will get on with the Top Ten and in no particular order.
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PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE by Nathalie Mallet. If only there was a baby in the main cast of characters, this book would be perfect. The Sultan has a lot of women, but not a lot of brains when it comes to dealing with the resulting offspring. Well, what do you expect from someone who regards women as cattle? Anyway, he locks up all his sons in The Golden Cage because he fears them overthrowing him. Guess it never occurred to him that being a great dad might engender loyalty, so he wouldn't have to worry about stuff like that. The Princes, meanwhile, compete with each other, hoping to be the next Sultan. If one bites it in the process, no big deal. There are plenty more where he came from. Then, the Princes start getting killed in bizarre ways and Prince Amir, who long ago learned to stay off the radar, is swept into the investigation as pretty much the only brains in the lot. Then, a princess shows up to marry the next Sultan, which isn't Amir but he falls in love with her anyway, of course. This story has such well-rounded characters, fully realized world-building, logical magic, and suspenseful pacing that I had no idea who the real bad guy was until the end. Then, I screamed and threw the book in the air! This one would be great for young men to mommies pushing forty like me. It's that good.

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ENDLESS UNIVERSE by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Okay, this book really is perfect, because there ARE babies in the main cast of characters. The Explorers travel through space, endlessly discovering new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no one has gone before, while everyone else is stuck dirtside. The pay a price for this glorious adventure, however. Among other things, space travel renders them infertile. Ever so often, they need to stop and make a Baby Haul. A team goes to a place where excess babies are sold and buys a few. Baby-selling is repulsive to the Explorers, but the babies would die or be sold into prostitution if they didn't buy them. And so they buy them and that is how they continue their space-born civilization. The geniusness of this story is that MZB doesn't impose her personal beliefs on socities, parenting, sex, or anything. She, quite obviously, asked herself 'What if?' and extrapolated from there. The way the Explorers raise their children evolved naturally based on their environment and culture, just as it does for cultures all around the real world. Although it's not a Science Fiction Romance, the main character does fall in love and it's bittersweet, because he and his mate wonder what it would be like to have their own children. This one's for all the ages too. I'm focused on the babies and cultural aspect, because that's just the kind of girl I am. ENDLESS UNIVERSE was released in 1975, so a really good used bookstore or Amazon.com will have it for you.

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Speaking of Science Fiction Romance, the next book on my list is MOONSTRUCK by Susan Grant. There were a lot of good SFR books released this year and a good many were reviewed her by me and my accomplices, uh, I mean fellow reviewers. It was a really tight race and what pushed MOONSTRUCK over the edge into the Top Ten was the Intimate Adventure. ***Spoiler Alert*** The Heroine, Admiral Brit Bander goes from crushed young, widowed mother to hardened warrior to learning that it takes a lot more courage to embrace true love when it finds her again. That whole journey just ripped me to peices. If you know someone who needs a Romance novel about the healing power of love, get MOONSTRUCK. It is Highly Sensual and turns a Romance trope on its head, but it's all consistant with the characters and their story.

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ARMED & MAGICAL by Lisa Shearin. There weren't any babies in this one, goshdarnit, and the ending left me hanging because it's the second in a trilogy, but that's okay because the trip is well worth it. ARMED & MAGICAL picks up Raine's story where MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND left her. She's stuck between a rock and hard place, literally. The Saghred stone has been ingesting souls for centuries and it thinks Raine is yummy. Meanwhile, the bad guys want her dead because of it and the good guys try to protect. She's got two, count 'em, hotties in love with her. The girl can't even have a relaxing bath without a dead mage popping in. It's crazy.

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PROTECT AND SERVE by Gwyneth Bolton. I don't read Contemporary Romance much, but this is one of two I loved this year. Penny's Grandma just died and she's down from California for the funeral. She's totally broken up by it because she was raised by her grandmother. Then, she runs into her high school flame, Jason Hightower. Their passionate romance had ended when she lost their baby and they haven't seen each other since. They both resent each other for how badly they ended things, but even as they rekindle the flame her nutty mother gets into trouble. The great thing about this story is it includes family, a nutty mother, a lunatic aunt, and so on. You know, it's like when two people fall in love in real life. It's not just about them, it's about the coming together of their two families as well. Fantasy is nice, but too much of it and I cannot relate. I can't get absorbed by the story. PROTECT AND SERVE is real life romance in a fictional setting. The world and the characters, secondary as well as main, are fully realized. It carries a Sensual Heat Level and no one writes those better than Gwyneth Bolton.

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RED QUEEN'S DAUGHTER by Jacqueline Kolosov. I love YA Fantasy Historical. If I can just convince myself that my own has a shot, I'll polish it up for submission. But, in this economy, I don't know. Anyway...Mary is the daughter of Katherine Parr (King Henry VIII's widow) and the scoundrel, Thomas Seymour. Orphaned, she grows up in the care of a couple of foster mothers, the last of whom instructs her in magic. Then, she's sent to the court of Queen Elizabeth I as a lady-in-waiting whose secret task it is to ensure the success of her reign. Soon after arrivel, however, she encounters her own scoundrel with magic of his own. A riveting tale and not to be missed.

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BABY, I'M YOURS by Karen Templeton. Well, duh, there's a baby on the cover! Seriously though, anyone who's actually cared for real babies knows a fakey baby-centered Romance novel when they see one. Karen Templeton is the Queen of this kind of story though. She knows real babies and real romance and how to combine them in a real way. Kevin Vaccaro returns to his old girlfriend's hometown to make amends after cleaning up his drug addiction. He's not looking to make up, just to apologize. When he gets there he finds out she died in circumstances related to her own drug addiction and he finds she gave birth to their daughter right before that. His daughter is in the care of his dead girlfriend's sister, Julianne. She's still in the throes of grief from losing her sister right after losing her husband and she's totally wrapped up in that baby girl. I mean, sure, Julianne is changing the baby's diapers, but it's really the baby who is taking care of Julianne and giving her a reason to live. Now, Kevin wants to be a dad. Can they work out a custody arrangement? Not likely. Julianne can hardly let the baby out of her sight. Only love can bring this family together. The Heat Level is Sensual and left me wishing we had a swimming pool of our own, and we live in Alaska!

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THE HERETIC QUEEN by Michelle Moran. Well, I love Ancient Egypt, the history, the art, the culture, the mythology, so of course I'm going to like a Historical novel set there. But, love's a whole 'nother thing. Nefertari is the neice of the Heretic Queen, Nefertiti, and Egypt's still pretty sore about what Nefertiti's husband, Akhanaten did to it. Nefertari's been in love with the next pharoah, Ramses, since they were kids growing up in the royal harem together. Considering her heritage, however, marrying him against court approval is going to be a challenge, to say nothing of being made Queen of Egypt. She doesn't get to be queen simply by marrying pharoah, because he can marry a lot more women than her, women the court might like better. The whole Nefertari and Ramses romance is wonderful young love, though the Heat Level is Sensual, so flip through those pages if you're thinking of giving this to a teenager and use your best judgement. The world-building is awesome and the history, though not entirely accurate, is riveting. Hmm, I think I'll watch THE MUMMY after this.

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CRYSTAL RAIN by Tobias S. Buckell. A lot of alien worlds have been inspired by Asian culture and I admit I love that. I'm totally into Ancient China and Old Japan, but this story goes in a completely different direction - South. The humans were transplanted onto this alien culture from the Carribean and their society evolved from that. The good guys are protected most of the time by a great mountain. They go on with their business, fishing and living a life not much encumbered by advanced technology. Then, the bad guys start breaking through, the Azteca. Sound familiar? Like the Aztecs, these guys are into a lot of blood-letting too. The world-building is what blew me away with this story. Like MZB, the author asked himself 'What if?' and then brilliantly extrapulated from there. This Science Fiction will appeal to anyone who loves the genre, guys or girls.
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PIRATICA by Tanith Lee. This is an alternate earth story. What I loved about is the 16 year old heroine grew up with her Kick-Butt Heroine Mama on her pirate ship. Then, her mom died and her dad found her and put her in boarding school. There, she's supposed to learn how to be a proper young lady, but she escapes and finds her Mom's old crew. If you're having a hard time finding good adventure stories with girl heroes, you should consider this one. And it's the first in a series too!

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Well, that's it. My babies will be waking soon and wanting their oatmeal. Happy holiday shopping, Merry Christmas, and all that. I already got what I wanted.
;)

18 comments:

Lisa Shearin said...

Awww, thank you, Kimber An! I'm so glad my book made your Top 10! : )

Lisa

Kimber An said...

Yeah, it was a fun read.
;)

Karen Templeton said...

Thanks so much, Kimber An, for including BABY, I'M YOURS in your Top 10! What a nice early Christmas present. :)

Frances said...

KimberAn,
Wonderful choice of books. I think I hear the bookstore calling to me. :-)

Nathalie Mallet said...

Wow! Thank you so much, Kimber An! I’m thrilled my book is in your Top 10. Thanks to you, I now have a perma-grin! :)

Kimber An said...

You're welcome, Ladies. It was my pleasure.
;)

Gary Baumgarten said...

Tobias Buckell will be my guest on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com Wednesday December 17 at 5 PM New York time.

Please go to www.garybaumgarten.com and click on the Join The Show link to talk to him.

Thanks,

Gary

Tia Nevitt said...

Great list! I'm going to come up with something slightly similar, but different.

I do review books that I didn't enjoy, and I'm honest about it. I felt bad about it but then guess what happened? People started popping up in the comments saying, "Now I must buy it." And they do! It's the strangest thing. They're buying it because I said I DIDN'T like it. I'm not sure what it says about how they view my taste.

I still feel bad about it, but I guess it's really true that any publicity is good publicity.

Kimber An said...

Gary, thanks for letting us know about that.

Tia, I think it's true a bad review can still generate sales, but I just don't have the time to read books I don't like either. I can't remember liking one book the ladies at Dear Author like, yet I still read their blog and learn a lot. I've loved several of the books they hated too.

Michelle Moran said...

Thank you so much, Kimber. It is an honor to be on your list! I have ordered several of your picks for X'mas/Hanukkah presents this year... have to do my part for the industry! And your picks are always fabulous.

Kimber An said...

You're welcome, Michelle. Glad I could help.
;)

Yunaleska said...

Oh no! More books to add to my wish list!

Can proudly say I've read Armed and Magical, and I'm a huge fan.

Kimber An said...

Don't forget you can give these books as presents and then borrow them later too. Learned that from my brother.
;)

Gwyneth Bolton said...

Kimber An,

Thanks so much for including Protect and Serve in your Top Ten for 2008. That means the world to me! I'm glad the novel was worthy of your wonderful year-end list. I'm happy dancing right now!

Happy holidays!

Gwyneth

Kimber An said...

Keep 'em comin', Gwyenth!

Susan Grant said...

I’ve been away at airplane training so am late to check in. Wheeeee! Thank you so very much! I'm so flattered!

What a great list, too. Been meaning for a while now to pick up the Nefertiti series as I've been in a historical fiction mood. PS--if my editor is fine with it, there is going to be a child of pirates in my next book, so the one you mentioned where the daughter is a pirate sounds sooo good. Thanks again. Hope you're feeling well. Try to live in and enjoy the moment!

Tia Nevitt said...

Lots of times, the fact that I don't like the book doesn't hit me till the end, when I ask myself, "what the heck happened? I was enjoying this book until now!"

That's why most of my reviews are positive. The one I set aside are the ones I didn't like early on.

Kimber An said...

Thanks for popping in, Susan. Maybe if you blaze the way with a child in your Romance, mine will have a chance one day. My heroines always get knocked up from all that Hot Nookie in Outer Space. I try to tell them mommies aren't allowed to command starships and being a mommy isn't sexy, but they just laugh in my face.