Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Overall Favorite Reads

Wow! We've come to the end of yet another year. Next month I will celebrate four years of blogging. Doesn't seem possible at all. A lot of growing and changing have happened in those years. A lot of new friends and of course a lot of books! I love that we can share that common bond.

But, before I start getting too sentimental, let's concentrate on 2011. This year I read 98 books, which was four below last year's total of 102. I try to aim for 100 each year, but given all the wonderful busy-ness of this year, I'm not at all disappointed in that total.

Of the 98 books, 47 were audiobooks - so almost half.

There were 83 different authors in the 98 book mix, 51 were new-to-me authors and 14 were debut novels. 65 books were written by men, 3 were written by male/female duos and 30 were written by women.

Now for the hard part. Winnowing down my favorite 10, but here we go:

10. THE HANGING TREE (Bryan Gruley) - this book was released in Summer 2010, so I was a little late in reading it, but Gruley blows me away with each book and I'm very much looking forward to his next book in this series, SKELETON BOX, that comes out next summer. I won't be waiting long to read that one, rest assured. STARVATION LAKE was great and THE HANGING TREE was even better. Can't wait to see what awaits Gus next. (Touchstone)

9. EL GAVILAN (Craig McDonald) - Craig consistently writes great fiction and with EL GAVILAN he stretched his wings a bit. I love that this book shows both his versatility as a writer and his traditional strengths as well. I love that he drew me in with characters I couldn't decide if I loved or hated. (Tyrus Books)

8. LONG GONE (Alafair Burke) - with every book Alafair Burke grows as a story teller and in LONG GONE she veered off the path she's been so successful with to date. She blazed a new trail proving yet again that she's got writing chops, y'all! Spending time with her characters in the NYC she so expertly creates is a treat. LONG GONE is possible the sweetest treat yet. (Harper)

7. DOMINANCE (Will Lavender) - WATCH. THIS. MAN. He is flat-out amazing. And he's young and with luck we will be seeing a lot more from him. DOMINANCE is complex and puzzling and mysterious and brilliant. This book was so much fun to read. And Will Lavender is a new-to-me author this year. DOMINANCE is his second novel. (Simon & Schuster)

6. SATORI (Don Winslow) - the very first book I read in 2011 and back then I said, "this will be on my favorites list" and it is. I loved SATORI as a book by itself, having not read SHIBUMI beforehand. After I read SHIBUMI I realized further how astounding SATORI is. Winslow managed to stay true to Travanian's characters and still infuse his own style and technique. SATORI is a work of art. (Grand Central)

5. THE SURROGATE/CAGE OF BONES (Tania Carver) - I'm putting these together, not trying to cheat, but CAGE OF BONES is not yet released in the U.S. I read both books this year, THE SURROGATE being the debut novel from Tania Carver - which is the writing team of Martyn Waites and his wife, Linda. Martyn writes independently under his own name as well, so it's not really his debut, but semantics. Like Bryan Gruley, I see the Tania Carver books as starting out great and only getting better. For those of you who like dark suspense, this is an absolute DO NOT MISS series. I'm hooked. I have to jump back and read THE CREEPER (due out in the US in 2012) - the middle book in the series - but once I'm all caught up this is definitely a series I'll be waiting impatiently for each new installment. Martyn's just thankful that he's across the pond so I can't camp outside his house waiting for the next book! ;-) (Pegasus)

4. THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES (Marcus Sakey) - The fact that I get to be a high-powered, kick-ass lawyer in this book has nothing to do with it's appearance on this list. And you should not hold Marcus' questionable choice in character names against him. This is the most amazing of his books. It's smart, fast-paced, brilliant plot twists. It keeps you on your toes and while the momentum of the book drives you to turn pages faster and faster, you don't want it to end. It's just too much fun. And that's what reading should be. (Dutton)

3. HELL IS EMPTY (Craig Johnson) - Yes indeed, I am an evangelist for this series. I do indeed have a crush on Walt Longmire. And if I didn't adore Vic so much, I'd want to kick her butt! O.k., don't worry, I do realize these are fictional characters, but when you're caught up in the books, they're friends. Breaking open a new Walt Longmire is like taking a vacation to my favorite destination. Prior to HELL IS EMPTY, KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED stayed my favorite, stayed my favorite, stayed my favorite and then HELL IS EMPTY rocked my reading world. There are so many wonderful layers to this book and you can enjoy one, some or all. (Viking)

2. YOU'RE NEXT (Gregg Hurwitz) - This book is always the hardest one for me to articulate why I love. Not because it's for bad reasons but rather because it affected me so deeply. This is a book that still resonates with me months after finishing it. The relationships that Hurwitz created between his characters are pulchritudinous (yes, I did learn that word just for this book...nothing else seemed to embrace the magnitude of what I was trying to say). I don't know how Gregg can tops this one, and how the heck can I top pulchritudinous if he does? (St. Martins)

1. THE RIDGE (Michael Koryta) - I, of course, revealed this last week in the year end meme. Michael's approach to both his human and feline characters is stunning. The world he created is dark and haunting, but I so wanted to be there. THE RIDGE gets the top spot this year because Koryta did what few are ever able to with me - he enticed me to let go of the reality I cling to and willingly follow into his. With any luck, Koryta will never want to be a cult leader. I think I'm a goner if he does. (Little, Brown)

In year's past, I've had debut authors in my top favorite 10. This year I didn't, but not because there weren't excellent debut authors, those danged veterans were just showing their experience! Anyway, I wanted to recognize a few debut authors as my favorites for 2011:

Sara Henry released LEARNING TO SWIM this year. I look forward to watching her grow as a writer and experiencing her work.

James Barney released THE GENESIS KEY which I felt did a wonderful job blending science, religion and crime! (Harper)

And Daniel Palmer released DELIRIOUS and I was glued to it. I've actually had the chance to read his follow-up to DELIRIOUS which is still a thriller, but quite different in content, so I can already see his versatility as writer in this genre. Problem with getting to read those ahead is you have to wait longer for the next one to come. I'm sure I can keep busy in the interim, though! (Kensington)

I feel very blessed that I learned to love reading and can appreciate the wonder and magnificence. While it's a challenge to narrow down a list to 10 favorites, it's also a tremendous gift to have experienced all of these worlds and characters - friends. My heartfelt thanks go out to all the authors who have shared their talents.

And many, many thanks to everyone who has entrusted me with books this year. I wish I was able to read every last one. And there are so many that I still intend to read. As things continue to change in my world, I hope that it offers me more opportunity to read and share and enjoy books with you all.

Thanks for hanging out with me this year! Let's do it again in 2012, o.k?


Lesa December 30, 2011 at 7:44 AM  

Oh, let's definitely do it again, Jen! I'll be interested to see what happens with your book lists when you're reading for the Indie Lit awards. Good luck!

Hank Phillippi Ryan December 30, 2011 at 10:05 AM  

Wonderful list! Happiest of New Years...xoo

bermudaonion December 30, 2011 at 10:10 AM  

I haven't read a single one of those books, but I do own two of them. I hope that counts for something. Happy New Year!

Patti O December 30, 2011 at 4:39 PM  

You are so much more edgy than I am! I don't read very many thrillers. On my TBR are Bryan Gruley, Michael Koryta, and Craig Johnson. I also haven't decided whether to take my favorites list down to 10 or leave it long. Love your post, and Happy New Year!!!

Beth F December 30, 2011 at 6:31 PM  

I haven't read any of these either -- I'll have to do some catch-up reading. You can bet I'll still be reading what you have to say in 2012.

mjskit December 30, 2011 at 6:50 PM  

I love thrillers and have been having a hard time find good ones. Your list if perfect and just what I was looking for! Can't wait to start reading some of these. Thanks!

Rod W December 31, 2011 at 8:31 AM  

Great list Jen. I always enjoy seeing what your rerading & whay your thoughts were. Thank goodness for dedicated readers like yourself.

Martyn Waites December 31, 2011 at 12:45 PM  

Hi Jen. Thank you so much for the kind words about the Tania novels. I'm over the moon that you like them. Have a wonderful new year and I hope to se you soon.


Bryan Gruley January 1, 2012 at 3:31 PM  

Thanks, Jen. Really honored to be on this great list. Happy New Year!

Janel January 2, 2012 at 4:15 PM  

Nice list! I've added You're Next to my to-read list. Happy Reading!

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