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Author Archive: "Billie Bloebaum"

My Top Romance of 2011

This is it — the last of my lists of favorite books from 2011. This time around, it's those romance novels that I loved but, for whatever reason, didn't previously write about. And, yes, there is a bit of cheating going on with this list, because there were a few authors who published multiple titles in 2011, and I wasn't able to pick just one.

I'll start with Jill Shalvis, mostly because I've never made any secret of how much I enjoy her books. She had quite a year this year, with the first two books in her Animal Magnetism series (Animal Magnetism and Animal Attraction) published by Berkley, and the second two books in her Lucky Harbor series (The Sweetest Thing and Head Over Heels) from Grand Central. Plus, there were a couple of shorter pieces and a bind-up of the first two Lucky Harbor novels. I'm really enjoying the Animal Magnetism books. Wecause what's not to love about hot guys with cuddly animals? But if this were a contest, the edge would go to the Lucky Harbor novels because Head Over Heels was everything I love about Shalvis — ...


My Penultimate List of Favorites

For my penultimate list of favorite books of 2011, I've assembled a bit of a hodgepodge, an olio, a miscellaneous, an et cetera. In other words, this is a list of books which either don't properly fit into any other list or that I forgot about or whatever.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a book that captivated me from the moment I began reading. It's a lush and lyrical, dreamy and sensual historical novel about love and magic and the most strangely beautiful circus ever. The narrative spans decades and centers on the competition and romance between the magicians Celia and Marco, one of whom will not survive. Morgenstern's descriptions of the circus and its environs are so rich that, like many of the characters in the book, the reader will be left with a distinct longing to track it down and become part of it, no matter the cost.

On the other end of the spectrum is Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All the Time, which is in no way lovely or dreamy. It is a harsh, brutal novel that left me reeling. It's not an easy ...


Ready Player One

I had a hard time choosing a number one pick for my Top 5s of 2011, but this book won out because it was fun and nostalgic and possibly the most joyfully entertaining book I read all year. A quest story set mostly in a virtual world, it's a geeky celebration of all things '80s — a decade when video arcades and John Hughes movies reigned supreme. Is it the best book I read? Probably not. Is it the book that made me happiest while I was reading it and that I most want to force on friends and strangers alike? Absolutely.


My Favorite Mystery Novels of the Year

Slowly but surely, I'm creating a mostly complete list of my favorite books of 2011. Last time, it was science fiction and fantasy. Prior to that, it was young adult fiction. This time around, it's mystery/crime/thriller fiction.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante was one of the most haunting and emotionally affecting novels I read this year. LaPlante beautifully and heartbreakingly captures the life of a protagonist suffering from dementia and who may or may not have killed her best friend. The solution to the mystery was nothing spectacular, but the writing was incredible and made me excited to see what else Ms. LaPlante has up her sleeve.

The Most Dangerous Thing is another foray by Laura Lippman into the dark places of childhood and an exploration of how events can resonate far into the future. To my way of thinking, there is no one who captures both the wonder and the terror of childhood like Laura Lippman.

Louise Penny's A Trick of the Light is perhaps the most beautiful and personal so far in her series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the citizens of Three Pines. Events from previous novels are ...


My Favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels of the Year

In my last post, I listed some of my favorite Young Adult titles of 2011. Continuing the series, I now turn my attention to some of my favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy titles of the year.

Kicking things off is Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, which might just be my favorite book of 2011. It's the perfect book for anyone who grew up hanging out in video arcades and watching John Hughes movies. It's funny and nostalgic and... let's face it, you knew from the title whether or not this book was for you.

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss was a long time coming, but so very worth the wait. I loved The Name of the Wind (and am now on my third copy, because apparently everyone I loan it to loves it as well) and waited very, very impatiently for this sequel. I kept telling myself that I'd rather Rothfuss got it right than that I got it right now, and dreaded being disappointed after waiting — quite literally — years. If you have yet to read The Name of the Wind, please go do so now and then dive ...


My Favorite Young Adult Novels

It's December and everybody and their dog seems to be coming out with Best of 2011 lists. I saw this particular bandwagon, thought it looked like fun, and decided to jump on. Therefore, my next few posts will be recap lists of some of my favorite books in a few different categories. I'm going to start with Young Adult for no other reason than that it was one of the easier lists to compile. I now present to you, in no particular order, my favorite YA titles of 2011.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is the book I was shoving into people's hands in the first half of the year. It's smart, funny, snarky, and completely over-the-top. A plane full of teenage beauty pageant contestants crash lands on a deserted island. Things go a bit "Lord of the Flies." Some reality TV pirates show up. There is a secret lair hidden in a volcano. There are footnotes and interstitial advertisements and all kinds of crazy. Words cannot do this book justice. You just have to read it. Like, right now.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater might just be the most romantic YA novel ...


The Author Binge

Have you ever read a book by an author that made you immediately want to devour every other word he or she has ever put on paper? If so, then you know how I felt when I recently discovered the works of Kate Noble.

I picked up The Summer of You because I had heard good things about it. I didn't know what to expect, other than it was an historical set in the countryside. I started reading and was quickly enchanted with Ms. Noble's lively writing style. There was nothing stiff or formal about the prose. Instead, the story was told in a relaxed, almost conversational manner, in spite of the fact that the story itself was not a frothy meringue of silliness. I absolutely fell in love with Jane and Byrne and even with Jane's rather self-absorbed brother, Jason. But, Jane and Byrne occasionally referenced events in the past that made me realize that there was a book before this one. So, naturally, I had to track it down.

Revealed is the story of Jane's "arch-rival," Phillippa Benning, and Marcus Worth, Byrne's brother. And, to be honest, Phillippa was super-annoying for large ...


I Heart Stephanie Perkins

I am channeling my inner 13-year-old this time around so that I can squeal about a couple of fantastic young adult romances. Okay. Maybe not my inner 13-year-old who was more into Stephen King and Lois Duncan, but you get the idea.

Stephanie Perkins wrote her first novel, Anna and the French Kiss, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, or November as it's more commonly known), which is, in and of itself, quite an impressive feat. Not only that, but it was good enough to get published by a Big Name Publisher, which is super duper impressive. And, to top it all off, it's good. I mean really good.

Anna gets sent off to attend a school for Americans in Paris, which sounds glamorous on the surface, but it means she has to leave behind her best friend and her boyfriend and her family, and she doesn't speak French, and she really just doesn't want to go, thankyouverymuch. But, there's this guy (because this is a romance and there has to be a guy) who pretty much becomes her best friend at school and then he becomes something more and then there's some ...


Getting a Little Weepy

Last week, I read a couple of books that were smart and well-written and featured heroines who were a bit out of the ordinary. They also weren't the sort of happy light and fluffy romance that I prefer to read during the sunny days of summer. They were definitely autumn-ish books, and, therefore, the perfect things to write about on this first day of autumn.

The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal features several elements that I really like to see in historical Romance novels: a hero and heroine who are both "older" (he's in his 40s, as best I can tell, and she's in her mid-late 30s); characters who, while not necessarily completely outside polite society, are closer to the edge than the center and, therefore, out of need or desire or some combination of both, pursue careers (she's an author, he's an antiquarian); and children who are not just "plot moppets," but fully-realized characters in their own right (in this case, Sydney, a 12-year-old budding authoress). Marina and Jasper (our heroine and hero) both have rather ginormous secrets in their pasts, and, of course, they ...


The Most Dangerous Thing

Centering on a group of childhood friends who are unwillingly drawn back together after the death of one of their members, The Most Dangerous Thing, like most of Laura Lippman's novels, is about secrets and lies and their ability to not only influence events, but their seeming knack for rising to the surface just when you thought they'd stay buried forever. This is another masterful novel from a writer at the top of her game.


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