Top 10 Week – Favorite Books of 2011




Hello! My name is Christina and welcome to my blog!  Before getting down to the business of sharing my Top 10 Reads of 2011, I thought I’d give you a bit of back-story about the list.

It started off as a list of 21 books that, to me, were 5-star books. Some had reviews, but most didn’t. After a few days of trying to whittle it down to 10, I gave up. I knew which book I thought should be #1, figuring out the other nine was frustrating. It seemed like it changed every time I sat down to look at it. Then I came across this event. At first, I passed on it, but then I got an idea, based on something I did back in 2008 (see paragraph 3). Naming the “personal demons” Bitsy and Lulu, back then, was unnecessary and spur-of-the moment. My idea for this week was to create a pair of imaginary hosts, personal demons, and have them deal with my inability to come up with a list by using Yes, I did run my list through the randomizer (several times, in fact). It turned out to be very helpful. I was able to eliminate several books because they kept showing up in the top 10, displacing books I felt should have been closer to the top. I got the list down to 14 titles. I got all the posts set up as much as possible, ready for the actual lists. By this time, I was running into issues with book boyfriends and the other character-based list (cover art and 2012 lists were easy compared to the other three).

The problem with having imaginary hosts is that you have to write their parts as well as everything else — in other words, I was adding work to a situation that didn’t need the extra head-ache. I spent nearly the entire weekend of the 17th working on Day 1. . .and it still wasn’t done. By Tuesday, no progress was made so I decided to scrap Bitsy and Lulu from the project entirely. Well, almost entirely. The Top 10 remains random — the book in #1 slot isn’t the one I would have chosen. They also remain in two other spots: Lulu didn’t like my picks for cover art so she presented her own and set up a poll for visitors to vote on which they liked best — I had fun with this so I left the cover art and the poll; the second spot is the “musical interlude” (a YouTube video) they picked to amuse visitors while they were off sorting out my book boyfriend problems. 😀

So. On with the list. . .

~~ & ~~

In the interest of full disclosure — I tweaked the list only once after randomizing it for the final time. The book currently sitting in the #10 spot was initially placed in the top 5. I would have made that book #9 or #10 (had I actually picked them) so I just did a one-for-one swap. Since the post was already set up for a countdown, I left it that way.

# 10. . .
Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy.
From my review in January —
Buffalo West Wing

This book is my favorite one, so far, in this series. The mystery and the secondary story lines really worked for me. Ollie has matured in her role as the executive chef. She’s gotten better at handling Peter Sargeant, the snobby and pompous sensitivity director, who constantly hopes she gets fired. Added to the mix is Virgil Ballantine, personal chef to the First Family. On several occasions, his actions either make Ollie look bad or puts her in a difficult position. Ollie handles each situation like a mature, reasonable adult. She is dedicated to doing her best, and doesn’t require the press and notoriety the others — people like Sargeant and Virgil — seek out.

Additional Remarks: It’s the fourth in the series and each book includes menus and recipes for dishes mentioned in the books!  The fifth book will be released on 3 January.

#9 . . .
Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin.
From my write-up in July —

Magic Lost, Trouble Found
“Raine reminded me of Kate Daniels in many was. She’s protective of those she cares about and she won’t sit idly by while others put themselves in danger because of her. Plus, she’s sarcastic.”

Additional Remarks:  It’s the first in the Raine Banares series.  One of the new-to-me series I will be continuing next year.

#8 is. . .
Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
From my write-up in July. . .

Magic Slays (Ilona Andrews)
“Love it. I liked that we got to see how Kate and Curran are coping with their relationship. I thought the dinner scene, the first few moments of it, had a “first date” vibe to it — shy and awkward. Very sweet. And who knew the Beast Lord was such a romantic.”

Additional Remarks: Still my all-time favorite Urban Fantasy series. The next book set in this world, Gunmetal Magic, is actually told from Andrea’s point of view. The authors stated on their blog that they had the Kate 6 story arc planned out and realized that they needed to resolve Andrea’s issues first before they can move the story forward.  The fact that the publishers went along with this book-detour speaks highly of their faith in this couple.  The next Kate-narrated book isn’t due out until 2013.

#7 is. . .
Red Heat by Nina Bruhns
From my notes —

Red Heat (Nina Bruhns)
I wish I could remember which review I read that inspired me to get this book. As soon as it came in, I started reading it — though I had only intended to read chapter one — and couldn’t put it down. One of the things I liked a lot was that I couldn’t figure out who was sabotaging the mission — any member of the crew or scientific team could be the culprit. The author never made anyone seem too secretive or too obvious. I was surprised.

Additional Remarks: This is the first book in the author’s Men in Uniform trilogy. Nikolai’s demotion to captaining an old, barely-holding-itself-together submarine is reminiscent of Kelsey Grammer’s in Down Periscope, a movie that the author calls “one of the best submarine movies ever made.” (scroll down past the excerpt to see her comment and a clip)

#6 is. . .
Unchained by Sharon Ashwood
From my review

Unchained (Sharon Ashwood)
While re-reading parts of the book, to refresh my memory, I really fell in love with the characters. Okay… I fell in love with Reynard. His dilemma, even knowing how it ends, still got to me. I really do like Ashe, now that she isn’t butting heads with Holly, thinking she knows better than her little sis. And Miru-Kai. A character like him just doesn’t just disappear without being heard from again. I wonder when and where we’ll be seeing him again. I hope the author has plans for him.

Additional Remarks: This is the third book from The Dark Forgotten series and won the author a RITA in the Paranormal Romance category. Unfortunately, Frostbound (the fourth book) was also the last. The author has announced a new series she’s contracted for with Harlequin Nocturne.

#5 is. . .
Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu
From my review

Tiger Eye
I liked Dela and Hari. They’re both good, decent people. Hari’s been through a lot, but it never destroyed his core ethics. There were a couple of times I agreed with Hari and the others when Dela seemed to be a bit blasé about her safety — but I also agree with her reasoning, that she couldn’t just hide under the bed all the time either.  I really loved this book. One of the things I wanted to learn about was Dirk & Steele itself: how Dela was connected to it, what was its purpose. The game barely touches on it. I also wanted to know more about Roland, too, but like Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels”, he’s only heard from, not seen.

Additional Remarks: This is the first book in the Dirk & Steele series. One of my goals for next year is to get caught up with the series. Within the Flames, the 11th book, was recently released.

#4 is. . .
Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh
From my notes —

Caressed by Ice
If Visions of Heat re-kindled my interest in this series, then Caressed by Ice solidified it. I loved this book. It was different from its two predecessors because the roles were reversed: it featured a male Psy and a female changeling, a SnowDancer wolf this time instead of a DarkRiver cat. Judd is already out of the Net, though he’s still connected to his small family one consisting of his brother Walker, his nieces Sienna and Marlee, and nephew Toby. His problems center around his very deadly abilities and the safeguards in place to protect those around him should he break conditioning. Brenna has come a long way since her rescue in the first book, but she’s still not completely healed. She’s also dealing with two overprotective brothers who are not happy about her growing interest in Judd. Another difference is the fact that Judd and Brenna aren’t complete strangers. Judd has lived with the wolves for some time, and though there may not have been much interaction prior to her abduction, he probably knew who she was at least. I’ve become a fan of this author and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Additional Remarks: Caressed by Ice is the third book in the Psy-Changeling series. My goal this year was to read all the books before the most recent, Kiss of Snow, was published in paperback. I almost reached it. I had only one more to read. Next year, I hope to read her Guild Hunter series.

#3 is. . .
Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch
From my July write-up

Touched by an Alien (Gini Koch)
I loved this book! I loved Kitty! And Jeff! And Kitty’s parents! I wish I’d started this series sooner. Thankfully, I have the next two on hand.

Additional Remarks: This is the first book in the Katherine “Kitty” Katt series. And it’s another series I hope to catch up with in 2012.

#2 is. . .
Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison
From my notes —

Storm's HeartI might be in the minority, but I liked this book more than Dragon Bound and Serpent’s Kiss. As much as I liked Dragos, I know that Pia’s got an uphill battle on her hands. And Rune and Carling as a couple didn’t work for me. However, I thought Tiago and Niniane had more of a true partnership. Tiago may be a warlord and used to being in charge, but he was also more adaptable. He and Niniane actually talk about things, discuss the future and the problems they are facing.

Additional Remarks:  This is the second book in the Elder Races series.  Had I actually picked the books, Storm’s Heart would have been in the top five.  It is the book I used to swap out Buffalo West Wing.

#1 is. . .
Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh
From my notes —

Branded by FireI loved the fact that both Mercy and Riley were Changelings, the first book where neither party is Psy (or part-Psy). I loved watching them try to figure out their relationship and how that will affect their standings in their respective packs

I liked Mercy. She’s a Sentinel, but she isn’t adverse to being mated and having children. She’s afraid that her dominant leopard will prevent her from accepting the mating bond. Now that Lucas and all the male Sentinels are mated, Mercy’s hard pressed to find a dominant male in the DarkRiver pack that can take her on. She’ll have to look elsewhere — or given into the temptation that is SnowDancer lieutenant Riley Kincaid.

Riley is the strong, silent type. He’s the calm, level-headed one, which is why Hawke made him the liaison to DarkRiver in the first place. He still suffers guilt for not being able to protect his baby sister Brenna, who he raised from near infancy after the death of their parents. Riley’s first instinct is to protect, something that Mercy baulks at — she’s fully capable of taking care of herself.

There are a lot of other things going on in the book — stuff the deals with the on-going plots concerning the Psy Council, the Human Alliance, and the Ghost. Plus, we get a bit more about Hawke and the situation with Sienna, and Sascha gets two very different surprises.

Additional Remarks: This is the sixth book in the Psy-Changeling series.  I fell in love with this series this year and that probably contributed to my problems choosing books for this list. Though Branded by Fire is NOT the book I would have chosen as #1, I was content to leave it in place when I randomized the list for the final time — same with Caressed by Ice.

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Top 10 Week – Favorite Books of 2011 — 11 Comments

    • Nalini has two series: P/C and the Guild Hunters series. The GH series features angels and vampires. I haven’t started it yet, so I can’t speak with much authority.

      Psy-Changeling is her longer, more established, series. It features shifters and psy (no kidding, Christina!) and an occasional normal person as a main character. It’s also a series I feel has to be read in order because the over-all series story arc — each book is building toward a certain endgame (whatever that may be). Ten books are out in paperback — starting with Book 10 (Kiss of Snow), they graduated to hardback release first (the wait between hb and pb was only six month for Kiss of Snow).

      Slave to Sensation (Bk 1) didn’t blow me away, but the world she created intrigued me enough to continue. I still recommend it though, for the reasons stated above and the fact it introduces you to a lot of the important players.

      (I’m going to reply via email, too, just in case)

  1. I love your list! So many UF and PNR books and series I’ve never heard of! I’m in the same boat as you, having to get caught up on the “old” stuff. And it seems like I’m running into nothing but YA blogs out there so I’m adding more and more YA books to my TBR. I’ll have to check out some of your titles! Ilona Andrews and Nalini Singh have been on my radar for some time and I’ll have to add Liu, too.

    The only reason why I didn’t have Gini Koch on my list is because I really, really loved the first few of the series and I only gave the last 2 of the series 4 stars and there just wasn’t any room for her with all the other great stuff I read. I’m such a huge fan of her, tho!!! She is such a hoot!!!

    • I know the feeling — I’ve only just started adding more YA as well — partly for my own sake, but I also have a niece I would like to be able to send recommendations to. My pet peeve/gripe about YA is that it’s in hardback. I’m very selective about what I buy in hardback, even in adult fiction.

      Ilona Andrews — love the Kate series. A lot of fans had a hard time with the first book and even the author herself has been known to disown it. 😉 But it gets better.

      Nalini Singh — As I’ve said, Slave to Sensation didn’t wow me, but the world she created did.

      Marjorie M. Lui – I can’t wait to read more of this series. The books feature different types of paranormals and are set in different locales. It sounds like you could read several back-to-back and not feel like you’re reading the same book over and over.

    • Thanks! Having seen your blog posts in my feed reader, I’m not surprised. 😀 I’m always amazed at the number of books you read.

      And, thanks to your post, I found about Top 10 week. 😀

    • I’ve become such a fan, I bought her Silhouette Desires, just so I’d have something to read on that mythical day I actually get caught up with the P/C and Guild Hunter series. 😉

    • Thanks! Though I really can’t take credit for the list — did the hard part! 😀

      I hope you enjoy Magic Slays. 🙂

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