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Karen Ostertag's blog

10 Books You Might Have Overlooked in 2010

Everyone's doing "best of" lists this month, but to be honest, I haven't even made it through a quarter of the books I wanted to read in 2010.  I had the best of intentions.  I even made a list.  But the drawback to ordering all the speculative fiction for a medium-sized public library is that I get to see all the pretty new shinies as they come in, and I am very easily distracted by books.  ("Oh, the book I want to read is on reserve... in the meantime, I'll just check out this one... and this one... OH, and this one...!")  I don't feel qualified to come up with a "best of 2010" yet (maybe in June?), so instead I thought I'd share a list of the best books of 2010 you probably haven't read yet.  The first five titles are ones I nearly passed over, and was really glad I didn't.  The remaining five are underread titles that you probably didn't check out last year... but should.

New Romance Fiction for January 2011

In paperback:

The Ghost Exterminator: A Love Story by Vivi Andrews (2, Karmic Consultants) C, S
Stranger by Zoe Archer (4, The Blades of the Rose) H, F, M
The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks (1, KGI) C, M
No Place to Run by Maya Banks (2, KGI) C, M
The Heir by Grace Burrowes (1, The Windhams) H
A Countess by Christmas by Annie Burrows (Harlequin Historicals) H
A Most Scandalous Engagement by Gayle Callen (2, Scandalous) H
You Dropped a Blonde on Me by Dakota Cassidy (1, Ex-Trophy Wives) C
Goddess of Legend by P. C. Cast (7, Goddess Summoning) C, A, F

New Speculative Fiction for January 2011

New to our shelves:

The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers F, SF
Shadowheart by James Barclay (2, Legends of the Raven) F
Surrender to the Will of the Night by Glen Cook (3, Instrumentalities of the Night) F
Vortex by Troy Denning (6, Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi) SF
The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith (1, Vampire Empire) F, H, A
The Radleys by Matt Haig H
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King H
What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz H
The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead (1, Bright Empires) F, A
Immortal Quest by Alexandra MacKenzie (1, The Trouble with Mages) F, M

Gifts of Love

Love it or hate it, winter is here and Christmas is nearly upon us.  Even if you don't celebrate the holiday, signs of the season are everywhere-- the nip in the air, the scent of evergreens, the cards and gifts, the holiday lights.  (Sadly, my lawn remains quite bare of snow-- I'm pinning my hopes on the Boxing Day forecast.)  People are drawing closer together; students are home on vacation, friends and neighbors are visiting, and families are travelling to be with one another for the holidays.  It's a time to be with the people you love.  Perhaps this is why Christmas romances have such strong appeal.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Reading Break

Traffic is terrible.  An imminent influx of relatives is wracking your last nerve.  You have a to-do list with far too little crossed off of it.  The forecaster gleefully informs you how few shopping days are left even as she predicts a massive winter storm.  And now some shipful of aliens called the Vogons wants to bulldoze our planet to make way for a hyperspatial express route?!  (Although... the destruction of Earth would take care of your other sources of stress....)  In the words of noted sci-fi humorist Douglas Adams, DON'T PANIC.  The library's Speculative Fiction collection is here to help, with entire realms and galaxies ready for you to escape into! 

New Romance Fiction for December 2010

NOTE: * = holiday-themed title

In paperback:

Blood Spells by Jessica Andersen (5, Final Prophecy) C, F, S
Burning Up by Susan Andersen C
When Wicked Craves by J. K. Beck (3, Shadow Keepers) C, S, M
Miracle Baby by Laura Bradford (Harlequin American Romance: Baby to Be) C, *
Spun by Sorcery by Barbara Bretton (3, Sugar Maple) C, S, M
Living Nightmare by Shannon K. Butcher (4, Sentinel Wars) C, S
Midnight Kiss by Robyn Carr, Jean Brashear, Victoria Dahl C, * (Pbk-Romance Midnight)

New Speculative Fiction for December 2010

New to our shelves:

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (9, Culture) SF
Noonshade by James Barclay (2, Chronicles of the Raven) F
Nightchild by James Barclay (3, Chronicles of the Raven) F
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear SF
Passion Play by Beth Bernobich (1, The Erythandra series) F, R
Beyond Exile by J. L. Bourne (2, Day by Day Armageddon) H
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (13, Miles Vorkosigan series) SF
Bones of Empire by William C. Dietz (2, Empire duology) SF, R
The Wolf Age by James Enge (3, Morlock Ambrosius) F, H

Sweets to the Sweet

I wrote about sensuality in Romance back in September, covering the "hot" end of the scale ("Burning Books").  This month, I promised to take a look at the other end of the sensuality spectrum-- the "sweets."  Sweets are romances that do not contain explicit sexual content, focusing instead on the social, emotional, and mental aspects of the romantic relationship.  You're likely to see kisses and some cuddling, but any further physical involvement (if there is any) will happen behind doors that are closed to the reader.  As romance author MaryJanice Davidson puts it, "There will be no forced seduction in these books.  Tons of respect, of soul-searching, of angst.  But no booty."  It's not that sweets are anti-sex; they just treat it as a profound step in a romantic relationship, not something to be undertaken lightly or casually.  If bodice-rippers make you blush and all you want is some good, clean romance, these are the books for you!

Broadening Your Horizons

When you think of Fantasy, what elements immediately spring to mind?  Perhaps a vaguely medieval, pre-industrial setting, for starters-- thatched cottages, castles, a feudal system, and so on.  A young, questing hero, or maybe a team of adventurers wielding longswords and magic.  An evil witch or wizard.  For variety, let's toss in a few noble Fae folk, a stolid dwarf, and a troublesome halfling or two.  And it's not a proper fantasy without some fabulous beasts, right?  How about a fire-breathing dragon?  Classic... why is that, though?

Now, before you get too upset at me for reducing all fantasy fiction to a stereotype, I do have a point.  Potentially, the fantasy genre has a near-limitless scope-- it's not bounded by science or reality, only by the author's imagination.  Despite that latitude, what fan hasn't read a dozen books containing most of the elements I listed above?  My concern is that the American fantasy landscape today is suffering from a sad lack of diversity.

New Romance Fiction for November 2010

* = holiday-themed title

In paperback:

Scoundrel by Zoe Archer (2, The Blades of the Rose) H, S, M
Rebel by Zoe Archer (3, The Blades of the Rose) H, S, M
Bespelling Jane Austen by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, and Janet Mullaney H, C, A, S
    (Pbk-Romance Bespelling)
When Pleasure Rules by J. K. Beck (2, Shadow Keepers) C, S, M
Mad about the Duke by Elizabeth Boyle (7, Bachelor Chronicles) H
Scoundrel in My Dreams by Celeste Bradley (3, Runaway Brides) H
One Scream Away by Kate Brady (1, Sheridan) C, M
Lord Lightning by Jenny Brown (1, Lords of the Seventh House) H, S

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