Yes, a little late, but for my Friday Five (last week's) I'm posting my 2008 Five--my five top reads during 2008 (all SFR except for one stand-out Fantasy I couldn't leave off the list).
And here they are, in order of appearance. (Remember, Christmas is coming. Support the industry by buying some of these great books for your friends.)
1. THE OUTBACK STARS by Sandra McDonald. A fascinating blend of compelling characters, fantastic world building, intrigue, suspense, Australian mythology and an alien-constructed mystery. The author is a former officer in the US Navy and her experiences lend true realism to the culture of a really big ship. Inspiring and with characters I bonded with and related to. The Romeo and Juliet-esque romance made me root for this couple to overcome the impossible obstacles confronting them. Terry Myell is one of my all-time favorite SFR heroes. This book was a Compton Crook nominee and selected for the top spot of Spacefreighters Lounge Dom Perignon (all time great SFR) list.
2. ARMED & MAGICAL by Lisa Shearin. Yes, there it is. The non-SFR on my Top Five SFR list comes in at number 2. Fantasies don't tend to intrigue me, but book 2 in the Raine Benares series is addicting. The characters, situations and world building are fabulously fun, and the steamy-but-unresolved (so far) love triangle is spellbinding. This very non-typical Fantasy is fresh and full of surprises. This recommended read comes with one qualifier--read book one first! (MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND).
3. SHADES OF DARK by Linnea Sinclair. The continuing saga of Chaz and Sully did not disappoint, and though there was plenty of action and tense battle scenes, it was the psychological journey and interaction between the two main characters that really hooked me. The love scenes--as much mental as physical--were particularly well done, and the obstacles the couple are forced to confront are monumental and life-changing. The author takes moral dilemma to a whole new level in this sequel to GABRIEL'S GHOST. She also managed to make me a big fan of a character I didn't care for in the first book, Admiral Philip Guthrie (Chaz's ex-husband) who plays a pivotal role in this novel and will be the main character in the next in the series, HOPE'S FOLLY which will be released in 2009.
4. BARRAYARAN by Lois McMaster Bujold. I'm embarrassed to admit that prior to 2008, I had never read a book by this iconic SFR author. This certainly won't be the last. BARRAYARAN's gutsy and intimidation-immune main characters are faced with political schemes, assassination attempts, ominous threats and physical jeopardy in a society in turmoil after the death of their emperor. Cordelia, the heroine, never waivers from her goal of saving something very precious to her, though she knows it could cost her her life or her marriage to regent Aral Vorkosigan. The world building is remarkable, and the science fiction elements are worked into the human saga in a seamless and believable way. This book is now available as Part II of CORDELIA'S HONOR, which includes the first book in the series, SHARDS OF HONOR. I hope to read many more books in the continuing Vorkosigan series. BARRAYARAN is a Hugo Award winner.
5. CONTACT by Susan Grant. A satisfying tale of a woman who must assume the role of leader in a crisis, in a future where she may be one of the last survivors of humankind. The author draws on her knowledge as a 747 pilot in this "what if..." tale of alien abduction and first contact with an alien culture. The slow build to boiling point of attraction and trust between the two main characters was particularly well done.
All of these books come with my hearty recommendations as great reads, even if you're not a Science Fiction Romance fan. Click the titles above for links to Amazon to read more or order, with the exception of BARRAYARAN which is linked through CORDELIA'S HONOR.
I'm looking forward with great anticipation to some of the upcoming releases for 2009. I'll try to do a separate post on my much anticipated TBR additions in the near future.