Each month the RT editors select one book that is not only compelling, but pushes the boundaries of genre fiction. This book stands out from all the others reviewed that month, in the magazine issue and on the website. January 2014's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Kathleen Hale's YA mystery No One Else Can Have You.
"As a fan of unusual YA heroes, Kippy is my new muse. I finished No One Else Can Have You weeks ago, but I still miss hanging out with the Diane Sawyer-loving weirdo who takes her depression over losing her mother and then her best friend, Ruth, out on Friendship, Wis., through a hilarious, spur-of-the-moment investigation into Ruth’s murder. Aside from Kippy, every single character in this YA debut is just about perfect, and Kippy's so, so awkward first love is amazing to read." — Tricia Carr
"It's been a while since a book has made me laugh this much. Although this wacky story is contemporary-set, be prepared to suspend some disbelief as Kippy works her way through the town's crazy residents to uncover the truth about her friend's murder. This debut is the perfect starting point for adults looking to test the waters of YA fiction." — Elisa Verna
"This book is a delight. It's also really insightful, apart from being a murder mystery, it will make you think about friendship, loss and what it means to be normal." — Elissa Petruzzi
"No One Else Can Have You is a funny, quirky mystery and coming-of-age tale that doesn't fail to entertain — or to chill — as Kippy Bushman discovers that her hometown of Friendship, Wisconsin, isn't quite so friendly. Hale's voice is engaging as she bring a touch of Fargo to a younger audience, and Kippy's revelations about her dead best friend and the people around her will in turns touch the heart and break it." — Mala Bhattacharjee
"It's been far too long since I've read something as brilliantly weird and witty as No One Else Can Have You. If you're the kind of misfit (like me) who's been waiting for a delightful, odd and occasionally wrenching Twin Peaks-inspired YA novel, your search is over!" -Regina Small
So, which other books were contenders for the Janaury Seal of Excellence? Here's a look at the titles the RT editors considered.
"Who says historicals are growing stale? Alison DeLaine's full-length debut A Gentleman 'Til Midnight not only proves that idea wrong, but provides a fresh, empowering take on all those high-seas pirate romances of the early '80s. Take-no-prisoners Katherine "Corsair Kate" Kinloch refuses to be held captive by her heart or her history when she rescues Captain James Warre from the wreckage of his ship. But, thanks to her quest to recover her Scottish father's title and lands, and James' desire to make up for past mistakes, they're bound together tighter than a sailor's knot. As personal grudges and private passions come to a head, DeLaine takes the characters, and the readers, on an alternately heartfelt, hot and humorous voyage. Throw in a stellar supporting cast whose own stories better come soon, a sweet little girl and a mischievous cat, and you've got a delight from start to finish!" — Mala Bhattacharjee
|"The concept of Red 1-2-3 by John Katzenbach is frighteningly creepy because it plays on the all-too-common paranoia that a weird neighbor, an acquaintance who’s a little off or a complete stranger could be a demented, murder-obsessed stalker. But don't let the concept scare you away — but trust me, you will be scared — from picking up this addicting read. Once I met the Big Bad Wolf, a writer who turns his deranged killing fantasies into novels, I was just waiting for him to crack. His intended victims are three redheads whose singledom, insecurities and life circumstances make them the perfect targets: a plain-Jane doctor who’s an amateur comedian by night, a former teacher who relies on alcohol and drugs and a basketball-star student at a private high school. Katzenbach gives voices to the three Reds, the wolf and his wife, Ms. Big Bad Wolf, through quick, alternating chapters, and their constant fear, indecision and boldness make Red 1-2-3 an unforgettable character study." — Tricia Carr|
"Mark my words: Jenn Bennett's Bitter Spirits will reinvigorate the paranormal romance genre. A true breath of fresh air, Bitter Spirits boasts a vibrant, original setting — the Bay Area's Chinatown in the 1920s — and an unbelievably sexy leading couple. Bootlegger Winter Magnusson is immediately drawn to Aida Palmer, a feisty spirit medium at the Gris-Gris theatre. Though Winter comes to Aida to help him dismiss some troublesome ghosts, their relationship quickly becomes much more than professional. Dwelling at the fringes of society, Aida and Winter are hardly the average couple — and one touching (and blazing hot!) scene involves them comparing physical and psychological scars. And those of us hoping for an HEA for driver Bo Yeung and Winter's sister, Astrid, may not have to hope for much longer, as Jenn responded to our Twitter pleas for their story. One thing's for certain: this first entry in the Roaring Twenties series is absolutely electric." — Regina Small
"For 39-year-old divorceé Molly Hallberg, starry-eyed romance belongs in the movies. That doesn't mean she's given up on relationships — in fact, her boyfriend, chiropractor Russell, is a lovely man. He's stable and predictable, if a little unexciting (and a major Nic Cage fan). But that's just what Molly needs after the dissolution of her marriage to a charismatic womanizer...isn't it? And she has plenty of other things to focus on, like her latest quirky assignment from EyeSpy, the online magazine she writes for. Angling for her own column, Molly agrees to write about real-life romance in New York City, but her boss insists she write in the style of romantic comedy legend Nora Ephron. But can un-romantic Molly muster the enthusiasm to write so hopefully about love? And can she duck the attentions of bestselling mystery writer Cameron Duncan, who seems to turn up everywhere? Linda Yellin's perceptive, charming take on the second-chance romance in What Nora Knew is worthy of Nora herself!" — Regina Small
Some of the additional titles that the RT editors considered are: