Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Reading: The Year in Review


Lots of terrific books on the docket last year from old pros and newbies alike. In particular, the trend continued for regular adult fiction writers branching out into Young Adult territory, with many fine new series being started.

In urban fantasy my reading mostly consisted of established writers with a sampling of debuts.  I enjoyed a fair number of Young Adult novels this past year as well as a smattering of fantasy and SF novels (mostly post-apocalyptic) and a few non-genre works as well.

Below is my 2011 reading list of approximately 140 novels most of which were published in the current year with a few from the year before. I've flagged my best picks of the year. If you have a list of your own, leave a comment with a link to your own list or tell us about your favourites. I've commented on a few of the titles, but as you can imagine catching up on a possible years worth of reviews at once is, well, impossible.


URBAN FANTASY / PARANORMAL

Angie Fox
Accidental Demon Slayer Series:
  • #1 The Accidental Demon Slayer 
Comment: Finally got around to reading this recommended series and to my dismay is was a DNF for me. I had a lot of trouble getting a handle on time and place for characters. Conversations seemed to happen in unanchored locations. The dog - not funny.  For a funny dog sidekick check out Jim in McAllister's dragon series or Oberon from Hearne's Druid Chronicles.
C. E. Murphy 
Walker Paper Series:
  • #6 Spirit Dances  
Comment: One of the best Joanna Walker stories yet.  This series continues to mature as Joanna shamanic skills grow.
Carolyn Crane 
Disillusionists Series:
  • #2 Double Cross
Comment:I found the debut novel Mind Games inventive and fresh. Again we have a terrifically entertaining story but this time around (just me) I found the psychology of the characters less approachable.
Carrie Vaughn 
Kitty Norville Series:
  • Kitty's Big Trouble   
Comment: Another entertaining Kitty adventure. Not my favourite. Doesn't move major series story arcs along very much.
Charlaine Harris 
Sookie Stackhouse:
  • #11 Dead Reckoning  
Comment:  Definitely not one of Sookie's better outings. It felt like a placeholder release with a hodgepodge of ideas and events.
Cherie Priest 
Raylene Pendle Series:
  • Hellbent
  • Bloodshot        
Comment: New series from Priest is worth a look. Vampire thief with a heart of gold and an ex-Navy SEAL/drag queen that is one of the more memorable sidekicks in urban fantasy.

Chloe Neill 
Chicagoland Vampires:
  • Friday Night Bites
  • Twice Bitten
  • Hard Bitten     
  • Drink Deep    
Comment: Got caught up on this fab series which is a personal favourite. The vampire culture is fresh and lead vampire character Merit is natural and real.


Christina Henry 
Black Wings Series:
  • #1 Black Wings 
  • #2 Black Night   
Comment: Fresh new series from a debut author. Interesting characters and mythology and terrific actions sequences. 

Christine Warren 
Others Series:
  • Not Your Ordinary Faerie Tale  
Colleen Gleason 
The Regency Draculia:
  • The Vampire Voss
  • The Vampire Dimitri    
  • The Vampire Narcisse    
Comment:  Fans of Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles will enjoy this series. The three books cover the same core events from different character perspectives. Personally I found The Vampire Dmitri to be overly repetitive and the weakest of the three stories. The sisters at the core of the stories are a delight.

Darynda Jones 
  • First Grave on the Right  
  • Second Grave on the Left 
Devon Monk 
Allie Beckstrom Series:
  • #2 Magic in the Blood
  • #3 Magic in the Shadows 
  • #4 Magic on the Storm
  • #5 Magic at the Gate    
  • #6 Magic on the Line       
  • #7 Magic on the Hunt        
Comment:  Got caught up on this serries this year and it has become another personal favourite and my vote for best series of the year. This just keeps getting better and better.

Faith Hunter 
Jane Yellowrock Series:
  • #3 Mercy Blade     
Comment: Jane's an original. Always a pleasure to read this series.
Ilona Andrews 
Kate Daniels Series:
  • #5 Magic Slays   
Comments: One of the most original urban fantasy worlds created. Magic Slays doesn't disappoint.
J. R. Ward 
  • Envy    
  • Lover Unleashed    
Jacqueline Carey 
Santa Olivia Series:
  • Saints Astray      
Comment: A much lighter tone is found in this followup to the terrific Santa Olivia. A different kind of HEA,
Jayne Ann Krentz 
  • Sizzle and Burn    
Jeaniene Frost 
Night Huntress Series:
  • #5 This Side of the Grave
  • #6 One Grave at a Time     
Comment:  A double whammy for fans of Cat and Bones, which of course I am. Oodles of action and memorable characters. 

Jeanne C. Stein 
Anna Strong Chronicles:
  • #7 Crossroads         
Jennifer Estep 
Elemental Assassin Series:
  • Tangled Threads 
  • Spider's Revenge      
Comments: The long-awaited showdown between assassin Gin and mobster Mab. Worth waiting for.  Highly recommended series.
Jeri Smith-Ready 
  • Shade  
  • Shift    
Jim Butcher 
Harry Dresden:
  • Ghost Story     
Comment: Without a doubt the best Dresden to date. Butcher took a chance with this premise and worked superbly. Harry as you have never seen him. Literally. My pick for best urban fantasy of the year. 

Jocelynn Drake 
  • Wait for Dusk    
Kalayna Price 
  • Grave Dance    
Karen Chance 
  • Hunt the Moon    
Karen Marie Moning 
  • Shadowfever    
Comment: Not sure what all the fuss was about.
Kat Richardson 
  • Downpour     
Comment: An excellent installment in the Greywalker series.
Katie MacAlister 
  • Much Ado About Vampires    
Kelly Meding 
  • Another Kind of Dead    
  • As Lie the Dead     
Comment: This series by Kelly from a very promising debut has lived up to and exceeded expectations. An example of what makes urban fantasy fun.
Keri Arthur 
  • Mercy Burns
Kerrelyn Sparks 
  • Eat Prey Love     
  • Sexiest Vampire Alive    
  • Vampire Mine    
Kevin Hearne 
Iron Druid Chronicles:
  • Hounded 
  • Hexed   
  • Hammered    
Comment: One of the freshest new series to be found in 2011. Often laugh-out-loud funny, the Druid is accompanied by one of the best familiar/sidekicks ever - Oberon.

Kim Harrison 
  • Pale Demon    
Kristina Douglas 
  • Raziel 
Larissa Ione 
  • Eternal Rider    
Larry Correia 
  • Monster Hunter Alpha    
  • Monster Hunter International    
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta     
Comment: This series was a new discovery for me and I found it's blend of male action adventure and urban fantasy a lot of fun. 
Laurell K. Hamilton 
  • Hit List   
Comment: The latest installment in this overly tired series offers nothing new. Anita has little to say and what she does say sounds cranky and repetitive. The writing style is barely above pulp standards.
Lauren Dane 
  • Goddess with a Blade  
Lilith Saintcrow 
  • Heaven's Spite   
Comment: Always a treat. Saintcrow's violent femmes never disappoint.
Lynsay Sands 
  • The Reluctant Vampire  
Comment: A guilty pleasure  series with little new to offer.
MaryJanice Davidson 
  • Undead and Unfinished   
Comment: Queen Betsy needs a vacation.  The latest offerings have been less original and less funny. The blonde thing and the shoes just aren't working anymore.
Meg Cabot 
  • Abandon    
Michele Hauf 
  • Forever Vampire  
Michelle Rowen 
  • Bloodlust  
  • Nightshade
Molly Harper 
  • The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf   
Comment: The title says it all.  Fluffy and fun.
Nalini Singh 
  • Archangel's Blade    
  • Archangel's Consort    
Nicole Peeler 
  • Tempest's Legacy    
Patricia Briggs 
  • River Marked  
Comment: Mercy Thompson takes a honeymoon.Not one of my favourites in the series, but strongly told.

Rachel Vincent 
  • Blood Bound    
Richelle Mead 
  • Bloodlines    
  • Succubus Revealed     
Comment: Succubus Revealed is book 6 and an excellent conclusion to this popular series. Does Georgina get her HEA?  Read it and find out. Richelle also introduced a Vampire Academy spinoff in Bloodlines which may prove to be equally popular. A strong opener.
Seressia Glass 
  • Shadow Blade    
  • Shadow Chase    
  • Shadow Fall 
Sharon Lee 
  • Carousel Tides    
Thea Harrison 
  • Dragon Bound    
  • Storm's Heart   
Yasmine Galenorn 
  • Blood Wyne    
  • Night Myst     
  • Night Veil    
  • Courting Darkness

    
YOUNG ADULT

Andrea Cremer 
  • Wolfsbane: A Nightshade Novel     
Ann Aguirre 
  • Enclave   
Comment: Terrific post-apocalyptic sf with a fascinating underground society and heaps of adventure. Recommended.
C. Dulaney 
  • Roads Less Traveled: The Plan   
Carrie Ryan 
  • The Dead-Tossed Waves  
  • The Dark and Hollow Places    
Cynthia Hand 
  • Unearthly     
David Weber 
  • A Beautiful Friendship
Comment: Classic style YA SF first contact story. Recommended.
Jenna Black 
  • Glimmerglass
Comment: YA outing from the popular urban fantasy writer. Fascinating world-building with a dimension spanning city of Avalon between Earth and Faerie. Fresh characters and well paced story.
Kiersten White 
  • Paranormalcy  
Kim Harrison 
  • Early to Death, Early to Rise  
  • Once Dead, Twice Shy   
  • Something Deadly This Way Comes   
Laini Taylor 
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone  
Lauren DeStefano 
  • Wither      
Maria V. Snyder 
  • Outside In    
Comment: Worthy sequel to Inside Out, this SF tale doesn't contain the same surprises as the opener but succeeds with adventure and imagination.
Nancy Holder, Debbie Viguie 
  • Unleashed
Philip Reeve 
  • Fever Crumb
R.J. Anderson 
  • Ultraviolet   
Comment:  Set in Sudbury Ontario, Ultraviolet poses and interesting mystery involving a young girl who supposedly killed a fellow teen and suffers from mental disease. A mystery at heart with a science fictional twist.
Rachel Caine 
  • Bite Club    
  • Last Breath    
  • Working Stiff 
Comment: A busy year for the Morganville Vampires. Reliable entertainment from the denizens of the Glass House.
Sarah Porter 
  • Lost Voices     
Comment: I was mesmerized by this mermaid tale. Fascinating and alien. My favourite YA of the year.



Veronica Roth 
  • Divergent     
Comment: YA seems to choose dystopian or post-apocalyptic themes  to great effect. Roth has produced a gripping and engaging tale of a fractured future society. Recommended.


FANTASY and SCIENCE FICTION

A. Lee Martinez 
  • Chasing the Moon
Carrie Vaughn 
  • Discord's Apple     
Comment: Couldn't really get into this blend of urban fantasy/mythology, science fiction and comic books.
Daniel Abraham 

The Dagger and the Coin Series:
  • The Dragon's Path     
David Anthony Durham 

Acacia Trilogy:
  • 2. The Other Lands    
  • 3. The Sacred Band     
Comment: A strong finish to this epic fantasy trilogy. Strong characters and riveting adventure. Highly recommended.
George R. R. Martin 

A Song of Fire and Ice:
  • #5 A Dance with Dragons     
Comment: Martin is one of the most inventive and creative fantasy writers working. A Dance with Dragons contains enough material for 5 books but fails to move the main story arc forward in any meaningful way. Highly disappointing after such a long wait. The richness of the vision is astounding but this is yet another transitional novel. It might well have been titled Tyrion Takes a Road Trip & Other Stories..
Guillermo Del Toro, Chuck Hogan 
  • The Strain 
Comment: Checked out this first book in highly recommended trilogy. Bored me to tears.
J. D. Robb 

In Death Series:
  • New York to Dallas    
  • Treachery In Death     
Comment: Somehow this series never gets tired for me. The chemistry between Dallas and Rorke makes it all worthwhile.
Jacqueline Carey 

Namaah Trilogy
  • #2 Naamah's Curse    
  • #3 Naamah's Blessing    
Comment: Carey again shows she is a master storyteller wrapping up yet another powerful romantic fantasy. Highly recommended.
Michelle Sagara   

Chronicles of Elantra Series:

  • #6 Cast in Chaos 
Comment: Keeps getting better and better.
Mira Grant 

Newsflesh Series:
  • #1 Feed    
  • #2 Deadline     
Comment: Simply put this is the best zombie series out there today. The logic of this post-apocalyptic world is impeccable. Can't wait for Blackout (#3)
Patricia Briggs 
  • Raven's Shadow
Patrick Rothfuss 

The Kingkiller Chronicle:
  • #2 The Wise Man's Fear  
Comment: A worthy follow-up to Wise Man's Fear. Story telling at it's finest. Wildly imaginative.
Robin Hobb 

The Rain Wild Chronicles:
  • #1 Dragon Keeper
  • #2 Dragon Haven   
Comment: Pacing on this new series by the usually reliable Hobb is slow. Doesn't reach the standards of previous series. It seems every fantasy writer needs a dragon book or series.
Sophie Littlefield 

Aftertime Series:
  • #1 Aftertime
  • #2 Rebirth     
Comment: Not sure what it is about zombie stories coming on strong in 2011 but Sophie Littlefield enters the post-apocalyptic fray with  a new terrific character driven series that is a must read.
Stephen King 
  • 11-22-63     
Comment: Surprisingly poignant. King's signature nostalgia and product brand marketing aside.
Terry Goodkind 

Sword of Truth Series:
  • #12 The Omen Machine     
Comment: A reboot of the Sword of Truth series. First book in three years and it shows. Few sparks between main characters leaves this a mediocre effort.



POPULAR FICTION

Barrie Eisler 
  •    The Detachment
Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum Series:
  •    Finger Lickin' Fifteen 
  •    Smokin' Seventeen
  •    Explosive Eighteen   
Comment: A guilty pleasure. Story quality varies from book to book but I always get a number of laughs from each which makes them worth the price.
Jeffery Deaver 
  •    Carte Blanche 
Comment: Another reboot of the James Bond series. Story is interesting enough but this could have been any spy thriller. If you want James Bond stick to the Fleming versions.
Stieg Larsson

The Millenium Trilogy
  •    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo       
  •    The Girl Who Played with Fire    
  •    The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest    
Comment: Everything about this terrific thriller trilogy lives up to the hype. Full of twists and turns and dark secrets.
Tom Clancy, Mark Greaney 
  • Locked On
Comment: Excellent thriller marred only by the usual extensive Clancy infodumps.
  

5 comments:

  1. I only wish I could make such a cohesive list of my yearly reading endevours. It seems by the end of the year I am just done with reading, done with reviewing, done with blogging. My intention is to create best of lists but I never seem to finish. Thanks for this yearly recap! I was reminded of a few series/books and I always enjoy your spin. Happy New Years!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well it was easier for me this year because I did little on the blogging side, but I know how the overload can just drain the ambition out of you. I am taking it slow and easy this year...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with a lot of your choices, but Ghost Story was a little slow in spots for me, 3/5.

    The audiobooks for the Druid Chronicles are great, especially the voice the narrator has for Oberon.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good to hear from you Anne. I picked Ghost Story because I think Butcher took a chance telling the whole story with Harry unable to really use his usual skills. The solutions seemed really creative to me... I did listen to some of the Druid Chronicles on audio and I wholeheartedly agree.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for the great list! I got a little behind in my reading this year (finally tackled and finished the Harry Potter series) found a lot of books on here I need to check out. Caught at the moment reading Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough. Top of my list after that is Wise Man's Fear and Dragon's Path.

    ReplyDelete

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