My criteria for 'best' is simple. Basically, I considered a book one of the 'best' if I really enjoyed it, I bought it or would be willing to buy it, and I'd re-read it. For the purpose of this list, I'm also limiting it to books published in 2011. Sadly, there wasn't many books that met that criteria so far. I don't know if it's because I'm a bit jaded or if I just haven't been reading the right books. In any case, my list, in no particular order, of the Best Books of 2011 so far:
- Skin Heat, Ava Gray - I actually read this as an ARC while on vacation. Since the book was already out, I left the book at the hotel and regretted it almost immediately. Not only did I buy a copy, I also went back and picked up the previous books in the series. I've enjoyed 'mutant' books ever since the TV show Dark Angel aired and this book fits in that category perfectly. It's unique because the hero is animalistic, but not a shifter. He is also illiterate due to the experiments conducted on him, which for some reason, I found fascinating. Forgive the pun, but illiteracy is not something you read about very often, especially in romance novels.
- When You Dare, Lori Foster - As previously stated, I don't particularly enjoy romantic suspense or military books, but this book grabbed me right away. In addition to a terrific hero and a writer heroine, there were excellently developed secondary characters. It's a bit out of character for me, but I'm really rooting for one of those characters, Chris, to get his own story, perhaps a novella. Chris is gay and, as a straight female, I can't always relate to the struggles facing a gay man, but Chris was so fabulous, I want him to have his own happy ending.
- Look! A Book! A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure, Bob Staake - I touched on it a bit in the February Monthly Tally, but I'll reiterate. I am 29 years old and I was captivated by this book. I'm very literal and the book is very not, so i think that was why I enjoyed it so much. If I had a kid in my life, I would totally buy this for them.
- Tortall and Other Lands, Tamora Pierce - I have been a fan of Tamora Pierce for a long time. This anthology is like a buffet containing offerings from all the worlds she's created. It's wonderful for the long time fan and equally great to get someone else hooked.
- Kiss of Snow, Nalini Singh - I remember when the Harry Potter series was still ongoing and we'd used to dissect the books, looking for clues as to what would happen next. The online romance community is now doing the same with the Psy books, trying to ferret out the identity of the Ghost. Any author who invites comparison to J.K. Rowling should have automatic placement on any best books list. I will legitimately weep when this series comes to an end, but I have faith in Nalini that she will make it an awesome ride in the meantime.
- Blood of the Maple, Dana Marie Bell - This book totally tickles my fancy. It's about a vampire who's cursed by a witch that he can only drink the blood of plants. His best friend's a ghost and he ends up moving to a town of supernaturals where he falls in love with a dryad. It's like Bunnicula crossed with Halloweentown. I don't know why Bell hasn't crossed over into mainstream yet, but she has major, major potential.
- Kiss at Your Own Risk, Stephanie Rowe - I can't begin to tell you how many romances I've read over the years, but I swear the number is probably at least four digits. As a result, when I find something new and interesting, I feel the need to adopt it and give it lots of love. It's even more gratifying when it's a book by an author that I've read before and wasn't too thrilled by. I feel about Kiss at Your Own Risk the way I did when I read The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter. Depending on the other two books in the series, this has the potential to be Rowe's breakout series.
- Magic Slays, Ilona Andrews - What I love about Andrews's books is how they can feature the same characters, but still be fresh and new. The plots are always advancing and, for all their mystical/magical gifts, the characters act like real people. Kate and Curran don't automatically fall into bed. They worked for their relationship and now that they're officially mated, they're still working at, learning how to compromise. I love strong heroines and the heroes that let them be strong.
- Nightfall, Ellen Connor - If you follow my personal Twitter account, you will have seen me be very flustered by this book. I don't like apocalyptic books because the world is unstable enough and I don't need to think about it ending while indulging in 'escapism.' However, despite all that, I felt compelled to finish this book and even now, months later, bits of it still float through my mind. A review at Dear Author takes the book to task for having too many apocalypses, but if you're willing to believe that people will spontaneously shift into animals due to a disease, why is it out of the realm of possibility that an electro-magnetic pulse happens at the same time? In addition, Connor (aka Ann Aguirre & Carrie Lofty) introduces, as a throw-away, the possibility of insect shifters. Aside from the spider shifters in the Sazi books (C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp) and a few bird shifter books, the majority of shifter books focus on mammals. Any book that lingers on in your brain and makes you think deserves to be on a list like this.
- Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers, Debby Maugans - Okay, confession time, this mainly made the list because I had nine titles and that troubled my orderly soul. However, I did buy two copies of this book, one for me and one for my sister-in-law. The idea behind this cookbook is awesome and, while I have yet to try out any of the recipes firsthand, I will definitely do so in the future.
- Eternal Rider, Larissa Ione - Okay, I love Larissa Ione, but her books have been getting progressively darker and darker. The hellhounds introduced in this book are no cuddly puppies either. Still, it's a well-written book and a good series opener.
- Treachery in Death, J.D. Robb - I didn't particularly love the previous book so I enjoyed this one simply because it was better. I also love the supporting characters so I liked the emphasis on Peabody. However, it doesn't rank as a best book because it's not as good as previous works.
- Demon Song, Cat Adams - I love this series, but it didn't make the best books list because it was very dependent on the books before it. If you haven't read any of the other books, you will not be able to fully appreciate this one. Plus it's in first person, which I normally hate, but I forgive the authors for it because the book is so full of awesome.
- Lover Unleashed, J.R. Ward - This is an honorable mention because I don't know if I'll ever buy it, but I finally forgive Ward for the crap she pulled with the end of Vishous's book.
- Savage Nature, Christine Feehan - I haven't been crazy about the Carpathian series for a long time and, while I'm still a fan of the Ghostwalker series, the rest of her books have been hit and miss for me. However, I liked this one. I think that has more to do with the unusual bayou setting than anything else.