Happy Bookmas: We Celebrate — and Give Away — Our 2015 Seal of Excellence Winners

The holidays are upon us, and we know what you're doing — shopping for everyone else! But we've got you covered, and we know what you really want — books! The BEST books. So we at RT are happy to be celebrating with you our third annual Bookmas, starring the 2015 Seal of Excellence winners. For the next two weeks, we'll celebrate our Seal of Excellence winners, and hear from those authors about their personal favorite read of the year. And because we appreciate you so, dear readers, we're also giving away a set of all of our Seal of Excellence winners to one lucky reader! Check below for details on entering, and be sure to visit this post each day for a new entry. 

January 2015 — Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

Say Yes to the Marquess, Tessa Dare
"My favorite romance discovery of 2015 was Alyssa Cole. I first found her via the historical romance novella "Let it Shine," published in the anthology The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology (which was an excellent anthology, all through), and I've since moved on to glomming her backlist. Cole's prose tugs at my heartstrings in all the best ways, and she writes pairings and settings that go beyond the usual historical romance dukes and ladies. I can't wait to see what she gives her fans in 2016!" — Tessa Dare

February 2015 — The Companion Contract by Solace Ames 

Solace Ames The Companion Contract

"My favorite book of 2015 isn’t a romance, it’s science fiction, but it does have deep romantic elements going all the way back to the story of Hadrian and Antinous. Elysium by new writer Jennifer Marie Brissett is told in a spare style, with a fragmented, disoriented beginning that coheres halfway through the book into a trippy post-apocalyptic epic with vestal virgins, virtual reality, aliens from another dimension, and a supercomputer that runs on circuits of air. The characters—diverse in gender, race, and sexuality—only need a few brushstrokes to feel achingly real. Elysium reminded me of my favorite Haruki Murakami book, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, with a similar approach to mourning, loss, and love. And it also made me cry at the end." — Solace Ames

March 2015 — Chase Me by Tessa Bailey

March SOE Winner: CHASE ME by Tessa Bailey
"This year, Taken by Charlotte Stein stuck with me more than any other book. I’ve never read a hero like Han. He was commanding and insecure and funny and capable of gorgeous, original words. I was so immersed in this book, I actually arrived at a meeting early, climbed into the back seat of my car and snuggled up to devour as much as I could—on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. For one afternoon, I was crazy car sleeper girl of New York and I couldn’t have cared less. I love this book so much and highly recommend the entire series." — Tessa Bailey

April 2015 — Fall with Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Fall with Me, Jennifer Armentrout
"Picking a favorite book of the year is an extremely hard task. I’ve read so many great books, some that had been out for a long time and others that were debut novels. I have to say my favorite book this year was Walk Through Fire by Kristen Ashley. I’ve been a longtime fan of hers, and this book reminded me of why I fell in love with her unique writing and original storytelling. Not only was Walk Through Fire the kind of book you had to read in one sitting, it was packed full of emotion. Kristen is never afraid to go there—anywhere—with her characters, and Millie Cross’s story will gut you, but also have you believing in second-chance love." — Jennifer Armentrout

May 2015 — Grave Phantoms by Jenn Bennett

May 2015 SOE Winner - GRAVE PHANTOMS by Jenn Bennett"The Winner's Crime is my favorite read this year. It's the second book in Marie Rutkoski's young adult fantasy romance trilogy. This is what I would call low fantasy: no dragons flying around, no evil wizards casting spells. Just political intrigue, dark schemes, and glorious revolution—oh, and an extremely tense romance (that will sometimes break your heart) between Kestrel, daughter of a military general, and Arin, a former slave. I love fantasy. I love romance. Put those things together in a smart way that keeps me turning pages and I'm all yours. My reading heart definitely belongs to Ms. Rutkoski." — Jenn Bennett

June 2015 — Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

June 2015 SOE Winner - NOWHERE BUT HERE by Katie McGarry"Picking a favorite book of the year is so difficult to do. It’s almost like asking which one of my children is my favorite. You love each one equally, but for very different reasons. For Young Adult Fiction, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything stole my heart. Madeline and Olly’s story is one that wraps you up, hugs you tight and never lets go. On the Adult Fiction side, Kristan Higgins’ If You Only Knew was a fantastic read. This story told through the point of views of two sisters was emotional, complex and extremely well written!" — Katie McGarry

July 2015 — Time Salvagers by Wesley Chu

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu"My favorite in 2015 is Replay by Ken Grimwood. It actually came out in 1986. I tried to think of a clever time-traveling metaphor but screw it, let’s talk about this amazing book. Forty-three year old Jeff Winston is on the phone with his wife. She tells him “We need—“ and then he keels over and dies. Wait, what does his wife need? Eggs, a baby, a divorce? What does she mean? I need to know but I don’t know why. One sentence into the book and I am all in. When Jeff wakes up, he’s eighteen again back in college with all his memories intact. He gets a second chance to replay his life. He decides to do things differently and not make the same mistakes he made in his previous life. Because he remembers everything, he does a Biff Tannen and gets rich gambling. He dies again at forty-three still not happy. He wakes up a little later in his twenties and tries to do things differently again make things better. Live. Die. Repeat. Until you get it right. This is a thriller about second chances, consequences, and love. More importantly, it’s a book that will make you question every decision you ever made in your life." — Wesley Chu


August 2015 — The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

August 2015 SOE Winner: THE LURE OF THE MOONFLOWER by Lauren Willig"There were so many excellent books in 2015 that it’s hard to pick just one… but the book that stuck with me the most was Sara Gruen’s at The Water’s Edge. Because who isn’t secretly (or not so secretly) fascinated by the Loch Ness Monster? In the middle of World War II, a Philadelphia socialite, her husband, and her husband’s best friend undertake a crazy mission to the Highlands of Scotland in search of the famous sea serpent, but the heroine quickly discovers that the real monsters in life aren’t the sort who lurk in lochs. Have I mentioned that there’s also a handsome Scotsman as love interest? I loved this coming-of-age story of betrayal, self-discovery, love, and, yes, just a wee bit of magic." — Lauren Willig

September 2015 — Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy"2015 was an incredible year for books, and it’s so hard to choose just one, but the book that made me smile so hard my cheeks hurt was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I dare you to read this book and not fall in love. Simon’s voice is so authentic and universal, and the love story is an absolute delight. Not only that, but the book feels especially current and relevant. Sure, it’s a book about two boys falling for each other, but really, it’s just a book about two teenagers in love. I love so many LGBTQIA books, but this one seems to move past labels and has truly resonated with all kinds of readers in a special way—me included!" — Julie Murphy

October 2015 — Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent"My favorite book of 2015 is probably All the Rage, by Courtney Summers. I've always loved Courtney's writing for the raw emotion she's able to capture and her unflinching perspective on the darker, grittier aspects of adolescence. Her characters are real, but far from perfect, and her prose feels effortless. Romy's battles with rape culture and bullying in Small Town, USA, feel horrifyingly real, and her strength is both fragile yet indomitable. Hers is a world I want to protect my daughter from, yet prepare her for. Not since Speak has a book about the systemic silencing of young women by their own community so infuriated and moved me." — Rachel Vincent

November 2015 — November 9 by Colleen Hoover

November 2015 SOE Winner NOVEMBER 9 by Colleen Hoover

"One of my favorite books that I read this year (although it’s coming out in 2016!) was Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes. I read YOU when it released last year, so when I got an early copy of Hidden Bodies, I was ecstatic. I was not prepared to love it even more than I loved YOU, but I did.

It’s hard for me to focus when I read. I hate to admit it, but I’m a big skimmer. While reading Hidden Bodies, however, I read from the first page to the last in five hours, never taking a break. It was that good.

Caroline has a way of making her readers empathize with things they probably shouldn’t be empathizing with. I was rooting for Joe, which made me question my own morals. But that’s what I love about Caroline and this book. When I read, I want to become the character. I want to understand what motivates them, what makes them thrive, how their brain works. I want to forget who I am and become the character. And most importantly, I want to believe the personality of the character. Caroline made me believe in Joe Goldberg." — Colleen Hoover

December 2015 — The Memoir of Johnny Devine by Camille Eide

December 2015 SOE Winner, The Memoir of Johnny Devine

"I barely dented my TBR pile this year since I had two novels releasing in 2015, but even so, I came away with a couple of favorites: To Dance with Dolphins (RT 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award Nominee, Inspirational Novel) by Bonnie Leon and the romantic drama, Water From My Heart, by Charles Martin. As a Martin fan, I was again fascinated with his enigmatic adventure-drama-romance style, his vivid story world, and his complex but unpretentious prose. Most of all, I love that all of his stories are rooted in relationship: messy, mystifying, magnificent.

I also love that the author traveled to Central America to experience the pace of daily life, the heart of the people and their culture, and the pulse of the land. As a writer, I am intrigued by the way Martin got me to sympathize with a not-so-good guy from page one and to root for Charlie Finn long before he roots for himself. This beautiful story is a breathtaking, thought-provoking, heart-tugger that challenges pride, ponders faith, and inspires hope in the redeeming power of love." — Camille Eide

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Check back all month for each Seal of Excellence-winning author's favorite 2015 book — and for more chances to win!