June Seal Of Excellence

June 2013's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Lauren Beukes' dark, time-travel mystery The Shining Girls. Each month the RT editors select one book that is not only compelling, but pushes the boundaries of genre fiction and stands out from all the other books that are reviewed in that issue and on the website. 


"When I first saw copies of The Shining Girls, with blurbs hyping it as 'The Time Traveler's Wife Meets Jack the Ripper,' let's just say I was skeptical. But after only a few pages in, I was hooked — and plenty scared! While not quite as literary or lyrical as Time Traveler's Wife, The Shining Girls shines with intricate worldbuilding — Beukes' roots as a science fiction/fantasy author are in full effect — and a truly puzzling plot. As soon as I realized what a gem it was, I pushed it hard with everybody I knew, just to have somebody to talk to about this frightening thriller with a fierce and complicated heroine and a super-creepy villain. Each shining girl stars in her own perfect vignette, and when the villain comes after them, you'll wish you could travel into the book and thwart his evil plan. Beukes, a South African, conveys Chicago perfectly, and era-hops so well you'll be able to hear, smell and see the surroundings. I hear that Leonard DiCaprio has bought the rights to this amazing book; no doubt he'll want to play the psycho killer, Harper. I am much more concerned with the casting of brave Kirby, the shining girl who survives his brutality and comes after him. It better be somebody super-fierce, and now I'm delighted to be able to discuss the possibilities ad nauseam with my fellow readers!" - Liz French, RT Editor

"Lauren Beukes is a superstar. Period. I've been in a state of perpetual torment/excitement since turning the final page of her last novel, Zoo City, which won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke award. And when I heard that her new release, The Shining Girls, was about a time-traveling serial killer, I couldn't stop talking about it — with my friends, with my colleagues and with basically anyone who showed the slightest interest in listening to me. To say my expectations were high would be a massive understatement. It could've been a very bad fall. I was hoping for a brilliantly written, engaging sci-fi/suspense crossover. But The Shining Girls is so much more than that. It's a dark, unrelenting thriller with a conscience. Harper crosses the boundaries of time to hunt promising women who dwell at the fringes of society. Women who are capable of changing the world. They shine. While it's wrenching to watch as each one is cut down — or almost cut down — Beukes makes perfect use of the serial killer trope to explore (male, societal) exploitation of female bodies and female freedom. She takes advantage of the fantastical — time-travel — to point to one abiding truth: In 1932 just as in 1992 or in 2013, it's dangerous for a woman to shine too much." - Regina Small, RT Editor

"If last summer was the summer of Gillian Flynn's twisted domestic mindbender Gone Girl, then this one definitely belongs to Lauren Beukes' chilling, time-travel thriller The Shining Girls. In this stunning novel, a remorseless and soulless serial killer, a survivor determined to seek justice and a cynical sports reporter are drawn into a web of horror that's bigger than all of them. Beukes' voice, her characters' discrete points-of-view and her plot threads are all woven together like an intricate cat's cradle. As the story brings a brutal killer and the Shining Girl that got away closer and closer together, the tension becomes almost unbearable. Readers will be on tenterhooks till the very last page — and then they'll close the book, check all their doors and windows and hope a psycho that jumps through time can't jump off the page." - Mala Bhattacharjee, RT Editor

"Beukes' Shining Girls are incredibly strong, developed characters you'll keep rooting for, even when you know what the end result will be. Kirby is an excellent protagonist, and her story is a refreshing take on "The Final Girl" horror trope — she's the lucky girl who escapes, but in this case her character isn't made two-dimensional by the male gaze. Quite the opposite, Kirby is the "Final Girl" for a female audience, and Beukes' novel is not one to be missed." - Elisa Verna, RT Editor

So, which other books were contenders for the June Seal of Excellence? Here is a look at the titles the RT editors considered.


"Part My Fair Lady, part Miss Congeniality and all Tessa Dare, Any Duchess Will Do wraps up the ingenious author's Spindle Cove series (for now!) with a hilarious and heartfelt Cinderella story that will have readers laughing for days. In this outing, it's Bull & Blossom barmaid Pauline Simms' turn to shine — at abject failure! Griffin York, Duke of Halford, is desperate to shut up his meddling mother, and he thinks he can kill two birds with one stone by plucking Pauline from her grim circumstances and presenting his mother with a duchess-to-be that's guaranteed to disappoint. In the end, it's the troubled Griffin who ends up making a miraculous transformation, as the brash and brave Pauline unlocks his darkest secrets and frees his heart. Don't miss this Dare delight!" - Mala Bhattacharjee, RT Editor



"Fans of Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series have been waiting almost a dozen books to finally have the mysterious "Ghost" revealed. As this rebel fights to bring down his own emotionless Psy race in this alternative world, readers will be glued to the pages of Heart of Obsidian. Incredible worldbuilding, massive disasters and soulless villains make this book a Gold rated story. However, what puts it over the top is the achingly sweet romance between two damaged characters. And as a bonus, the author has made sure that those new to the series are not lost in the plot. An absolutely beautiful read for Singh newbies and fans alike." - Morgan Doremus, RT Editor


"Katie McGarry is a YA author you want to read. There, I said it. New Adult is the hotness in the market right now, and Katie writes at the N/A level of angst and drama, but with solidly YA-aged teens. A bonus, McGarry's grown-up characters are vivid as well; I wanted to know more about Beth's Uncle Scott and his life, too. Ryan and Beth work through their realistic problems between kissing scenes, so prepare to sigh and clutch at the book as the dramz-filled ending keeps you up late into the night. You must read this book and love it. Dare You To!" - Elissa Petruzzi, RT Editor


"I fell in love with Ruthie Knox's Camelot, Ohio, during the most excellent Along Came Trouble. And, dear reader, may I even venture to tell you that Flirting with Disaster is even better? Oh yes. There's something about Knox's stuttering hero Sean that's endearing and appealing and wonderful. Sean's stuttering isn't just a gimmick to make him a flawed hero, it's really a part of his life, his childhood, his history. Katie is a well-drawn heroine, and both characters just feel real. Knox infuses her entire world with a depth that makes it seem as if a visit to Camelot is just a short plane ride away. You won't regret the trip. Promise." - Elissa Petruzzi, RT Editor


"Romantic suspense author Robin Perini pens a nail-biting adventure and second-chance romance in Undercover Texas. When brilliant scientist Erin Jamison and her young son are drawn into a terrorist plot, Hunter Graham knows he must save the woman he loves and the child he couldn't claim. His mission has never been so important, so personal. As for Erin ... is she running from one danger straight into the arms of another? Perini answers that, and much more, in this fresh and frenetic take on the category romance favorite tropes of secret baby and lovers-on-the-run. This fast-paced book is as packed with drama, tension and sexual chemistry as a big screen action movie; readers will want to grab some popcorn and grip an armrest — except that would leave no fingers free to turn the pages!" - Mala Bhattacharjee, RT Editor

Some of the additional titles that the RT editors considered are:

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

Once Upon A Tower by Eloisa James

Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler

Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>