January 2016 Seal of Excellence

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 2016's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis.

Where have you been all my life, Helen Ellis? American Housewife is a stunning marriage of razor-sharp wit and sensitive insight. From the darkly funny battles between neighbors over wainscoting, to unsettling recurring visits from dead doormen, to a surprisingly sympathetic rendering of reality television competitors, this collection is killer. — Regina Small

American Housewife is like if Truman Capote and Flannery O'Connor had a wicked Manhattanite baby. The only time I put this book down was to finish laughing. Usually in short-story collections, there's one or two that just aren't as good as the others, but that wasn't the case here. Every story makes you want more. — Sarah McDaniel Dyer

Before delving into this collection, I heard Ellis compared to Maria Semple. And let me tell you, I love Semple's send-up of privileged women, Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, with the fire of a thousand suns. So I opened this book with a decided, "Oh, yeah?" fighting words sort of attitude. Ellis won me over halfway down the first page. Her prose is delightfully horrible, and I mean that in the best way possible. I finished this in record time, and then flipped back to page one to start reading again. This is going to be one of those books you'll see everyone holding. Trust me. — Elissa Petruzzi

American Housewife, has to be the most horrifyingly delightful book on the shelves this month. Each of her dozen tales is more brilliant and biting than the last. From housewives who sit around doing little more than spending their husbands' money to those who are self-employed, from polite society wives to those more than willing to get their hands a little dirty, each woman within the pages of this book is equally worthy of fear and admiration — but mostly a wide-eyed stare and a few gasps of shock. Either way, you won't soon forget these anti-heroines, who have crafted their own version of a twisted and tawdry American Dream — one definitely worth living, if only vicariously. My one complaint is that there weren't more deliciously devious housewives to meet. I can't wait to see what Ellis cooks up for us next! — Jennifer Peters

It's pretty difficult to resist this collection of stories. Clever, over-the-top and laugh-out-loud funny, American Housewife should most definitely be accompanied by a glass of Pinot Grigio — which you'll place on top of your glitter drawer in between stories, of course. Personal favorites include the all-too-perfect opener, "What I Do All Day," and "Wainscoting War," a back-and-forth story between feuding neighbors. So "stallion-walk like Beyonce" to the nearest bookstore and grab yourself a copy — you'll be seriously mistaken if you don't. — Danielle Valente

Here are the other books we considered for our January 2016 Seal of Excellence Award:

The Rogue Not Taken, Sarah MacLean

I have come to trust Sarah MacLean's work such that I was not at all worried about her beginning a new series, which started with this month's The Rogue Not Taken. I was more anxiously awaiting the awesome. And this heroine delivers. She made my heart hurt and the tears flow, so much so that my cat became concerned. (My husband, he's used to me weeping over books.) This one's a keeper for sure.  —  Elissa Petruzzi

Pregnant by the Rival CEO by Karen Booth

Karen Booth spins a story of lust, love and betrayal in Pregnant by the Rival CEO. This was such a fun and quick read! Personalities clash, egos get bruised and then there's a baby! My favorite part about this book is that it features a diverse cast of characters in a natural and respectful manner. There is no discussion of the fact that Anna and Jacob are of a different race, because a discussion is not necessary. They are two people with similar passions who have fallen in love. Plain and simple. And isn't that how it always should be? — Kristin Wise

Confucius Jane is a truly adorable tale. It's hard not to instantly fall in love with Jane and Sutton. You'll want to stay with them, in their tight little community nestled in New York's Chinatown district, long after this delightful book is done.  — Sarah McDaniel Dyer

Midnight Taxi Tango, Daniel Jose Older

Any author, regardless of genre, must build a world for us to inhabit, and Daniel José Older truly excels at this in Midnight Taxi Tango, creating a New York City filled with ghostly mayhem. The dialogue is also pitch perfect for his full cast of characters, as he weaves together this Urban Fantasy tale. You'll want to start with book one, Half-Resurrection Blues, as plotlines continue. But it will be well worth it, I swear! — Elissa Petruzzi

Goodman's emotional and suspenseful tale takes us to upstate New York where creative writing professor Nan Lewis is investigated in the wake of her student's death on River Road — the same spot where Nan's daughter also lost her life. Suspicions arise, secrets unfold and readers are hooked. — Danielle Valente

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