July 2016 Seal of Excellence

The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany ReiszEach 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. July 2016's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Tiffany Reisz's The Bourbon Thief

The Bourbon Thief is the sort of book that knocks you off your feet, steals your sanity and keeps you up all night reading! One distinct and mind-melting plot twist sticks out, probably because I had to stop reading momentarily to try and wrap my brain around it. This is a story-within-a-story, as attempted thief Paris tells Cooper McQueen the sordid tale of Tamara Maddox, the heiress to one of the biggest — though now defunct — bourbon distilleries in America. Paris is convinced that by the end of the tale Cooper will hand over the million-dollar bottle of bourbon Paris tried to steal from him. Tamara’s story is one of deception, treachery and revenge. Fair warning — this is definitely a nontraditional love story with extremely questionable elements. Not for the faint of heart! — Emily Walton

I love Reisz's erotica, so I was anxious to check out her standalone mainstream fiction title. And hoo boy, was I not disappointed! Every word seems carefully chosen, and Reisz's voice resonates wonderfully in this twisted Southern tale. The tone is just perfect. Prepare yourself for soap-operatic level twists, and also to ignore everything else in your life as your race to the end of this eyebrow-raising tale. Really well done. — Elissa Petruzzi

Holy moly, what a story. My first Tiffany Reisz title delivered everything I had expected: an intriguing plot and a whole lot of craziness. Throughout, the author delivers twists that you will not see coming. Who would've thought that a book about bourbon would amount to this? Trigger warning: Not for the faint of heart. — Danielle Valente

This Southern Gothic-inspired stand-alone is exactly what readers would expect from Reisz: beautifully written and delightfully insane. Tamara’s strength and bravery in the face of many tragedies make her seem superhuman. What makes this book especially memorable is how Reisz vividly captures the American South with a brutal honesty that only enhances the dark material. — Elisa Verna

The other July Seal of Excellence nominees were:

The Virgin's War by Laura Andersen

Laura Anderson answers a big question in the A Tudor Legacy series — what would England had been like if Elizabeth had not remained the Virgin Queen? The series takes place in a sort of alternate England in which Anne Boleyn produced a son and never fell from grace. When I first picked up The Virgin's War I was skeptical. I love Tudor history, but I am not big on historical "what ifs". However, Anderson pulled me in and made me believe in this new England. From fictional friends to factual acquaintances and advisors, each character is well-rounded and perfectly suited to the political game they must play. When mother and daughter team up to work against Spain- watch out! The kingdom of Elizabeth's former husband and Anabel's father doesn't stand a chance. — Kristin Wise

Sinner's Revenge by Kim Jones

I really, really loved the first Sinner's Creed novel, so I was super excited to read Shady's story in Sinner's Revenge. Shady's romance with Diem was the polar opposite of Dirk and Saylor (we have an HEA, people!). The pair was combative, sarcastic and undeniably damaged, but still their love shone through with every turn of the page. It is the story of two dark, twisted souls that can only survive together. It's not sweet, it's not sad — it's empowering! Together they find the strength to build a brighter, happier future, and that is beautiful. — Kristin Wise

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers effortlessly pays homage to and reinvents the SF genre in equal measure in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. And most importantly? It’s fun! The story shines as it focuses on the personal stories of the Wayfarer crew, but that by no way means the story lacks in adventure. The characters range from human clerk Rosemary to reptilian-humanoid Sissix to Dr. Chef, a being with a big heart and six appendages. Plenty of other interesting alien species and crew members are given the spotlight, and each one is a breath of fresh air for fans who are tired of the classic “green-skinned humanoid” trope. Chambers also navigates social issues, sexual identity and gender identity with tact. If you’re looking to jump into a new adventure, and to meet characters who feel like friends by the end of the tale, then there’s a spot on the Wayfarer for you. — Emily Walton

A World Without You by Beth Revis

In her latest, A World Without YouRevis tackles raw subject matter and provides YA readers with a powerful story. Though it's not always an easy read and will be heartbreaking at times, A World Without You is a significant addition to the genre. Bo is convinced he can travel through time, and when he is sent to a special school, he meets and falls for Sofia, a girl struggling immensely with depression. When the worst happens, how will Bo cope? — Danielle Valente

Congratulations to the winner and all of the nominees! You can find all of our Seal of Excellence winners here.