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Watch a writer blather about writing that gay Barbarian and Mage story that insisted on being finished. Anti-scam rants and ebook links inserted for free.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Waldenbooks Best of Romances 2004

You can read the list at www.bordersstores.com/walden/list.jsp?list=best2004wromance.

There are some interesting titles here. For example, I'm not surprised to see Nora Roberts' "Blue Dahlia" as so many people liked it and thought she was back in form. There are also some controversial titles here. For example, feelings were extremely mixed on Rachel Gibson's "Daisy's Back in Town." (So mixed that I am still tempted to rush out and buy it just to find out if the hero is as big a jerk as everybody says. Or as other readers point out, is it all Daisy's fault?)

On the other hand, there are some titles here that puzzle me. I don't remember that much buzz about some of them. In fact, most of the fans were extremely disappointed in Julie Garwood's "Murder List."

Also, there are some hot titles that were completely ignored. Including some titles that were a huge hit at All About Romance, such as Adele Ashworth's "Duke of Sin." And come on, people! Laura Kinsale had a book out this year! And to further confuse things, some books that might sort of qualify, such as the new Jennifer Cruise, are placed under the Women's Fiction list, and some are placed under the Paperback Fiction listing (which actually seems to be all trade paperbacks).

Maybe what puzzles me the most about this list is that they don't say how it's compiled. Well that's not much help, is it? Is the list based on sales? Nominations from sales and marketing staff? Suggestions from salespeople? Votes from shoppers? Random tosses at a dart board? Who knows?

Another thing that gets me is that some people who want to give romance a fair shake, despite what they've heard about it, will use a list like this to guide them toward the "best" of romance. And they will end up with some stinkers. Then they will shake their head and walk away, deciding the naysayers were right and that romance fans will read anything, and if these books are the "best," then the rest must truly suck. But many of these books are not the best.

One good thing about the list is that there are several paranormal romances in there. Yay! Something to read if you're sick of Regency spies.

Waldenbooks Best SF/Fantasy of 2004

The SF/fantasy list was a little strange, too, but not *as* strange. Or is it? You know, I really can't decide. Anyway, you can read it here: www.bordersstores.com/walden/list.jsp?list=best2004wsf.

Right away, I noticed that the first book is "Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon: A Novel of Atlantis and the Ancient British Isles." MZB was great, but this is not an MZB book. She passed away several years ago, and this is really a Diana Paxon book. From what I hear, she is a good author in her own right, and I wish the market was good enough that she could write her own books.

The second is "Ringworld's Children" by Larry Niven -- I think some people in the SF newsgroup were avoiding this one because they had had such bad experiences with the other Ringworld sequels. (Don't get me wrong, I loved the first book but was never even able to start the next, and I sure felt better when I learned it was not Very Popular.) Maybe this one got better, although the buzz in rec.arts.sf.written wasn't promising. On the other hand, they have Steve Erikson, who must be good because even people in rec.arts.sf.written (BTW that's the SF newsgroup) praise him. Someday I'll even read him... They also have the Susanna Clarke novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: A Novel, which most stores are treating as general fiction rather than as fantasy. ("The critics like it, so it can't really be fantasy.")

But then they also have "The Star Wars Trilogy," which repulishes the first three books based on the first three movies, as if fans hadn't read those already. (And can't we get some original novels on the list? Sheesh!) And they also have "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - 25th Anniversary Edition." Now I loved that book and would probably adore it even if I read it again, and I think Douglas Adams died far far too young. And has it really been 25 years? Wow! But gee, how about some books actually published in 2004?!
I, for one, definitely enjoyed Gavriel Kay's latest effort "The Last Light of the Sun". I haven't read any of the other books listed by Walden but if they're scraping for good books to post it surely could have counted.
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