Monday, December 7, 2009

Penelope's Top 20 List for 2009!

Time for an end of the year wrap-up! Note: Not all of these books were published in 2009, but I read them in 2009. In no particular order.....

1. Most Unexpected Romance Novel: Following the violence-ridden book Hidden Currents, I was totally wary of Christine Feehan's Dark release this year, Dark Slayer, the story of Ivory and Razvan. After nineteen books of alpha-male Carpathian vampires dragging their mates kicking and screaming to the dark side, Feehan gives us a beta-male hero. Unbelievable. I loved him, and I loved this book. Here's the review.

2. Most Excellent Dog Scene In A Romance Novel: I think I've probably re-read the pug scene at the end of A Duke Of Her Own by Eloisa James about 30 times. The image of Villiers cradling the injured pug Oyster in his hand is incredible. Here's the review.

3. Most Kick-Ass Action Sequence In A Romance Novel: The final climatic scene in Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost is so ridiculously fantastic, I laughed out loud reading it. Bones walking down the middle of the highway to rescue Cat, in the midst of smoke, explosions, shattering glass...he is one amazing Bad Ass. That scene rocks. Here's the review.

4. Book That Made Me Laugh My Ass Off The Most: Steve Kluger's Almost Like Being In Love: A Novel. There are so many funny things in this book, I couldn't begin to list them all. Kluger is brilliant. I look forward to reading more of his work. Here's the review

5. Best Martini: The mango martini at Gauchos Churrascaria Brazilian Steak House in Portland, Maine. Damn, it goes down smoooth. Very nice. I was so impressed with this martini, I mixed up a batch, wrapped my martini shaker in a towel, popped it into my bike basket, rode down the block to my friend's house, and made her and her husband try the damned thing. At 3:00 in the afternoon. Smoooooth. Check out the recipe here.

6. Most Nerve-Wracking Anticipation While Reading A Romance Novel: Hands down, A Witch's Beauty by Joey Hill. I thought I was gonna puke worrying about David's fate. That book was seriously intense and I adored Mina, the heroine. Here's the review.

7. Best Romance Novel With No Sex: Hee hee heeee heeeee. I'm not sure I actually realized there are romance novels without sex, but sure enough...there are! Pumpkinnappers by Linda Banche, a sweet Halloween-y tale, was fun and festive. Cute! :) Here's the review.

8. Best Little Known Author: Alissa Johnson, who wrote the novella Traditions in A Christmas Ball, reminds me a little bit of Amanda Quick. Her voice is funny, romantic and totally satisfying. Can't wait to read more of her stories. Here's the review

9. Biggest Crack-Dealing Blogger Turning The Masses Into Mindless Addicts: Mandi, from Smexy Books. And she is not ashamed.

10. Most Absurd Premise For A Romance Novel: I was struck speechless reading Eloisa James' An Affair Before Christmas. The whole "Big Misunderstanding" causing the collapse of the H/h's marriage is the wife's lack of libido in the bedroom. Turns out it's because her hairdo is really, really itchy and uncomfortable. :0 The great thing is, this book is so cute, I still really enjoyed it! Go figure. Here's the review.

11. Best Farcical Scene In A Romance Novel: Julia Quinn is proof-positive that you don't actually need a story, a real conflict, or any other of those irritating things in a romance novel. Sheesh. What Happens In London is a fluffy bit o' fun and romance. The scene in the library when Sebastian is reading the gothic novel, with the Russian prince, his body guard, the butler, a handful of ladies maids and the hero all mesmerized by the tale, is absolutely hilarious. I love a good farce, and Quinn knows how to dish it out. Here's the review.

12. Biggest Disappointment: Mary Balogh's Then Comes Seduction and Seducing An Angel were not all that angelic. Christine Feehan's Burning Wild was burning with boredom. But the biggest disappointment of the year was the less than stellar end to the Bastion Club series, Mastered By Love by Stephanie Laurens, which was clearly less than masterful. Sigh. I get sad when my favorite authors lose their mojo.

13. Most Embarrassing Moment of Blubbering While Reading A Romance Novel: While reading Annette Blair's Larceny and Lace, a light paranormal mystery with romantic elements, I cried not once but twice! Jesus H. Canola, the "L" tat on my forehead just keeps growing bigger and bigger. Blair does an extraordinary job adding sweetness into this fun, snappy mystery. Here's the review.

14. Favorite Lines Of 2009: No contest, Steve Kluger's Almost Like Being In Love is hysterical. Here's one of my favorite snippets from this book....

Gordo: ...Travis, if you'd taken Trig with me like I asked you to, you'd know by now that it doesn't matter if you like boys instead of girls because the formulas are all the same.

Travis: I never said I like boys!

Gordo: Ever beat off to Penthouse?

Travis: No.

Gordo: Ever collect baseball cards?

Travis: No.

Gordo: How old is Barbra Streisand?

Travis: 36. Three weeks ago.

Gordo: What do you need -- a fucking blueprint?

15. Best New (To Me) Paranormal Series: Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress Series. Oh. My. God. Soooooooo good. Absolute deliciousness. Just goes to show, the market can handle another vampire series, as long as it's rockin'.

16. Best "Beauty and the Beast"-Themed Romance Novel: This is one of my favorite themes in romance. And Elizabeth Hoyt's To Beguile A Beast is spectacular. Sir Alistair Munroe has been horribly disfigured after being tortured as a prisoner of war. He has only one eye. And Elizabeth Hoyt still makes him an amazingly sexy and appealing hero. God Bless that woman. Here's the review.

17. Scariest Sounding Romance Novel That I Didn't Read: Hideous torture, rape, human trafficking....uh....doesn't sound so romantic to me. After reading the outraged reviews on Amazon, I decided to skip Hidden Currents by Christine Feehan since I like to sleep at night without having nightmares about my favorite characters being abused beyond comprehension.

18. Best Heroine of 2009: Honorable Mention goes to Eleanor from Eloisa James' A Duke Of Her Own. She is soft, and hard, and sensual, and intelligent, and honorable, and every inch a duchess. Loved her. But the number one heroine of the year goes to a young woman who started out as a fluff-bunny, hanging out by the pool, painting her nails, and shopping for trendy clothes. Karen Marie Moning has transformed Mac from Dreamfever into a sleek, powerful, determined, compelling heroine struggling with life and death and the end of the world as we know it. No more pink nail polish for Mac. Holy Mother, Mac rocks.

19. Best Hero of 2009: This is a toughie!!! Honorable Mention goes to Sir Alistair Munroe from Elizabeth Hoyt's To Beguile A Beast, Bones from Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series, and Preacher from Robyn Carr's Shelter Mountain. However, I have to give credit where credit is due. Jennifer Ashley took a mentally-challenged man, suffering from Asberger's Syndrome, who has been incarcerated in an insane asylum, and made him a fascinating, sexy, completely unique and heroic character. Bravo! Ian Mackenzie of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is my favorite hero of 2009.

20. Best Romance of 2009: I loved a lot of books this year. But one stood out for me. Dreamfever is my number one book of 2009. Karen Marie Moning has surpassed her Highlander books with this new Fever series. Her writing is absolute magic. Mac, Barrons and the entire cast of supernatural beings are riveting. The mastery of first person POV is truly impressive. The world-building is mesmerizing. And, unlike some other whiners, I actually like the cliffhangers. This book was worth the wait, and I have complete faith that KMM will make Shadowfever an incredible end to this exemplary series.