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Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 10 Paranormal Fiction Lists for 2011

Fortunately for readers, a LOT of excellent paranormal novels were published in 2011—both stand-alones and parts of old and new series. Sadly, though, a number of revered series came to an end.

I just couldn't narrow my "BEST" list down to 10, so I divided them up into several categories and made a "Top" list for each one. As always, just click on the pink-link series titles below to go directly to my reviews:

Here are my categories for best paranormal fiction in 2011:
   > Top 10 Paranormal Romance Novels Added to an Existing Series  
   > Top 10 Urban Fantasy Novels Added to an Existing Series
   > Top 10 Paranormal Romance Series That Débuted in 2011
   > Top 10 Urban Fantasy Series That Débuted in 2011
   > Top 4 Urban Fantasy Series That Came to an End in 2011
   > Top 4 Stand-Alone Paranormal Romance Novels 
   > Top 4 Stand-Alone Fantasy Novels
   > Eight Special Awards for Individual Efforts

Top 10 Paranormal Romance Novels 
Added to an Existing Series in 2011

1. Erica Hayes’s Blood Cursed, the fourth book in her SHADOWFAE CHRONICLES, which tells the love story of Diamond, a scary glassfae gangster who was a major villain in Poison Kissed, and Ember, a beautiful bloodfairy whose blood is like ambrosia to vampires.

2. Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love’s Alterant, the second book in their BELADOR series, in which the Tribunal punishes Evalle by assigning her an impossible task.

3. Nancy Gideon’s Hunter of Shadows, the fifth book in her BY MOONLIGHT series, in which the romance moves away from Max and Cee Cee to focus on Silas (a Shifter cop) and Monica (a lethal assassin).

4. Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Secret and The Darkest Surrender, the eighth and ninth books in her LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD series, in which Amun (Secrets) and Strider (Defeat) find their soul mates after a bit of a mate mix-up.

5. Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Blade, the fourth book in her GUILD HUNTER series, in which Singh turns away from Elena and Raphael to tell the love story of Dmitri and Honor.

6. Nalini Singh’s Kiss of Snow, the tenth book in her PSY-CHANGELINGS series, in which we FINALLY get the love story of Hawke, the SnowDancer alpha and Sienna, the young and pretty Psy defector.

7. Eve Silver’s Body of Sin, the fourth book in her OTHERKIN series, in which the mystery surrounding Lokan’s murder is finally resolved.

8. Angela Knight’s Master of Smoke and Master of Shadows, the seventh and eighth books in her MAGEVERSE series, in which the Warlock plot line moves further toward resolution—with the biggest battles still ahead.

9. Kate Pearce’s Blood of the Rose and Mark of the Rose, the second book in her TUDOR VAMPIRE CHRONICLES, in which we discover the secret life of Anne Boleyn.

10. Juliana Stone’s His Darkest Salvation, the third book in her JAGUAR WARRIORS series, in which the no-longer button-downed Julian Castille returns from his trip to Hell and falls hopelessly in love with Jaden DaCosta, the daughter of his worst enemy.

Top 10 Urban Fantasy Novels 
Added to an Existing Series in 2011

1. Kim Harrison’s Pale Demon, the ninth in her HOLLOWS series. This series gets better and better as Rachel goes on a road trip to the West Coast with Ivy, Jenks, and Trent, who is, unbelievably, acting friendly.

2. Seanan McGuire's One Salt Sea, the fifth book in her OCTOBER DAYE series, in which Toby has an undersea adventure and gets closer to a full-blown romance with Tybalt.

3. Jennifer Estep's Spider's Revenge, the fifth book in her ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series, in which Gin Blanco and her nemesis, Mab, finally have their big showdown.

4. Nancy Holzner’s Bloodstone, the third book in her DEADTOWN series. For me, this is the strongest book in an already terrific series as it beautifully captures the mind-numbing reality of the Boston paranormal world, with its voluminous paperwork, never-ending checkpoints, menacing police visits, neighborhood lock downs, and the heartbreak of demi-human parents as they face the possibility of losing custody of children who develop paranormal traits.

5. Jeanne C. Stein’s Crossroads, the seventh book in her ANNA STRONG CHRONICLES, in which Anna has a run-in with Chael, the powerful vampire who is trying to depose her from her Chosen position, and Anna has an emotional desert adventure with her old friend, Frey.

6. Kate Griffin's The Neon Court, Or the Betrayal of Matthew Swift, the third book in her MATTHEW SWIFT series, in which Matthew meets up once again with Oda and tries to bring daylight to an endless London night.

7. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Hit List, the 20th in her ANITA BLAKE, VAMPIRE HUNTER series. For all of you who are sick of Anita’s ardeur, this one is a welcome sex-free break, and (Hurray!) Edward’s back (along with Bernardo and the sinister Olaf), so there’s lots of verbal interplay among the characters.

8. Barb Hendee’s In Memories We Fear, the fourth in her VAMPIRE MEMORIES series. If you’re looking for fascinating characters and more story than sensuality, this one’s for you.

9. Diana Rowland’s Secrets of the Demon, the third book in her KARA GILLIAN, in which Kara and her team investigate the abduction of a teen rock star and get drawn into a string of murders committed by golem-like creatures.

10. Rob Thurman’s Blackout, the sixth book in her CAL LEANDROS series, in which Cal wakes up amidst dead monsters on a deserted beach and can’t remember anything about his previous life.

Top 10 Paranormal Romance Series 
That Débuted in 2011   

1. Isabel Cooper's ENGLEFIELD SERIES series (first book—No Proper Lady), in which a young woman is transported 200 years back in time to Victorian England where she must try to change certain magical events in order to save the future world.

2. Sylvia Day's RENEGADE ANGELS series  (first book—A Touch of Crimson), which follows fallen angels, vampires and lycans as they struggle for control of the world.

3. Karina Cooper: DARK MISSION (first book—No Proper Lady), in which the all-powerful Church has stepped up to take control of a devastated alternate Seattle and sends deadly hunters, called missionaries, to kill all witches, based on the Biblical edict, "Do not suffer a witch to live."    

4. Susan Grant: THE LOST COLONY series (first book—The Last Warrior) This series is more fantasy than paranormal, with its other-planet setting, but it flows like a top-notch paranormal romance, so I'm including it here.

5. Michele Bardsley: WIZARDS OF NEVERMORE (first book—Never Again) Bardsley creates the magical town of Nevermore, populated by various supernaturals, including dragons and wizards.

6. Molly Harper: NAKED WEREWOLF series (first two books—How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf and The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf). Harper does a great job with the humorous dialogue among her human and werewolf characters as they fall in love in small-town Alaska.

7. Vicki Lewis Thompson: WILD ABOUT YOU (first two books—Werewolf in Manhattan and Werewolf in the North Woods) Thompson's stories are always sexy, face-paced and humorous, with quirky characters, humorous dialogue, and plenty of sensuality.

8. Michele Hauf: HAWKES ASSOCIATES (first two books—Seducing the Vampire and Forever Vampire) This series tells the love stories of two generations of vampires as they deal with the angst and passion of finding and keeping their soul mates.

9. Laurie London: SWEETBLOOD (first two books—Bonded by Blood and Embraced by Blood). This is a fresh take on the vampire mythos in which the blood of certain humans (called Sweetbloods) is like cocaine to vampires. Naturally enough, each female soul mate is a Sweetblood and each male mate is a vamp. 

10. Thea Harrison: ELDER RACES series (first three books--Dragon Bound, Storm's Heart, Serpent's Kiss). This series got off to a rocky start, but improved in book 2. Here's hoping that it gets even better.

Top 10 Urban Fantasy Series 
That Débuted in 2011    

1. Rachel Vincent: UNBOUND TRILOGY (first book—Blood Bound) Here’s the first line of this terrifically dark and gritty UF series: "Only two-thirty in the morning, and I already had blood on my hands. The most messed-up part of that? It was the hour that bothered me."  Another hit UF series from Vincent.

2. Sophie Littlefield: AFTERTIME (first two books—Aftertime and Rebirth), in which the heroine (Cass Dollar) tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic world in which bioterrorism has killed most of the vegetation and zombie-esque Beaters roam the countryside attacking humans.

3. Cherie Priest: THE CHESHIRE RED REPORTS (first two books—Bloodshot and Hellbent). Raylene is a vampire thief nicknamed Cheshire Red within the global crime network. She gets involved in solving various crimes as she gathers together a family of society’s cast-offs and misfits. 

4. Michelle Rowen: NIGHTSHADE (first two books—Nightshade and Bloodlust) This is a dark and violent series with a fresh and inventive take on the vampire story. The characters are complex, with no one being either all good or all bad.

5. Melissa Marr: GRAVEMINDER series (first book—Graveminder). When Beka returns to her hometown for her Grandmother Maylene’s funeral, she learns the real reason why Maylene scrupulously attended the graves of the town’s dead.

6. Kevin Hearne: IRON DRUID CHRONICLES (first three books—Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered). Atticus O’Sullivan is a Druid who is hiding from the magical world in Tempe, Arizona. The books follow his adventures as, time after time, various supernatural beings force him back into the magical action he is trying to avoid.

7. Jon Courtenay Grimwood: THE ASSASSINI TRILOGY (first book—The Fallen Blade) This series is set in an imaginary Venice in the 1400s—fascinating characters, a compelling story line, and an authentic sense of place.

8. Kelly Meding: META WARS (first book—Trance) In this fresh and inventive world, an alternate U.S. is in a post-apocalyptic state fifteen years after a major supernatural war between two groups of powerful MetaHumans (aka Metas).

9. Amanda Stevens: THE GRAVEYARD QUEEN (first book—The Restorer) Amelia is a graveyard restorer who can see ghosts. She must be very careful because ghosts in this world seek out humans in order to drain their energy. This is almost a cozy series, with an amateur sleuth in a small town, but the spooky, creepy, look-over-your-shoulder ghosts scenes ramp up the action.

10. Anthony Frances: SKINDANCER series (first book—Frost Moon) A magical tattoo artist lives on the edge between the mundane and the mysterious in Atlanta, Georgia.

Top 4 Urban Fantasy Series 
That Came to an End in 2011

1. Richelle Mead: GEORGINA KINCAID. Just when Georgina and Seth believe that they've finally reached the smooth part of their romantic road, they discover that someone—or something—wants to keep them apart. Don't worry, though, all of the unconnected plot threads are woven together in a great finalé in the final book, Succubus Revealed.

2. Jennifer Rardin: JAZ PARKS. In the final book (The Deadliest Bite), Vayl finally reunites with his reincarnated sons and all of the romantic couples get their HEAs—even Cole.

3. Lilith Saintcrow: JILL KISMET series. In the final book (Angel Town), Jill returns from the dead to seek retribution from Pericles and finally achieves her HEA with Saul.

4. Jocelynn Drake: DARK DAYS. The final book (Burn the Night) follows Mira, a fire-controlling vampire in Savannah, Georgia, as she battles the evil Naturi, ancient earth guardians-gone-bad to a final conclusion.

Top 4 Stand-Alone Paranormal
Novels Published in 2011

1. Scott Kenemore: Zombie, Ohio. A philosophy professor in a small college town wakes up after an automobile accident to find that he is now a zombie.

2. Glen Duncan: The Last Werewolf. This literary novel follows an ancient werewolf as he considers ending his long life, but instead finds a reason to stay alive.

3. Barbara Ashford: Spellcast. Maggie Graham takes a job with a summer theater company and finds herself falling for the mysterious director, Rowan, who has some supernatural secrets.

4. Carrie Vaughn: After the Golden Age. In this comic-book-inspired UF world, the talent-challenged daughter of superhero parents tries to find her way to a “normal” life.

Top 4 Stand-Alone Fantasy
Novels Published in 2011

1. Karen Russell: Swamplandia! This book is not strictly paranormal fiction, does have ghosts, a touch of magical realism, and a whole lot of fangs (alligator fangs, that is, with "icicle overbites"—what a great image). Russell includes a number of mythological allusions in the story, with the River Styx being an important metaphor.

2. Téa Obreht: The Tiger's Wife. Obreht uses myth-making, allegory, and a touch of magical realism as she tells us a fantastical fairy tale of a story. As Natalia grieves for her recently deceased grandfather, she recalls his many stories, which she always assumed were pure fiction, but when she makes a trip to retrieve his possessions, she soon learns that his stories were based on truth.

3. Graham Joyce: The Silent Land. No supernatural creatures here, but plenty of fantasy and just a touch of creepiness. When Zoe and Jake return to their hotel after a pleasant day of skiing in the Pyrenees Mountains, they find no trace of any people—not anywhere in the entire village. Warning: Please don’t read the ending first; you’ll spoil the story for yourself.

4. Ransom Riggs: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenRiggs seems to have channeled both David Lynch and Stephen King as he put together this eerie time travel novel, which fits into many categories: a coming-of-age novel, a time travel story, a monster-in-the-dark tale, and a paranormal fantasy

Finally, here are seven special awards for individual efforts in 2011:

Best New Steampunk Series
Devon Monk’s THE AGE OF STEAM (first book-Dead Iron) Even if you’re not crazy about steam punk, you’ll probably enjoy this series set in an alternate Old West, where the source of evil is the Strange and the characters include werewolves, witches, and robotic bad guys.     

Best X-rated Sex-in-the-Air-Over-an-Iowa-Cornfield-at-Midnight Scene
Jeaniene Frost's One Grave at a Time, the sixth book in her NIGHT HUNTRESS series. No further explanation needed.    

Most Fascinating Supporting Character
Adrian deJesus in Cherie Priest's THE CHESHIRE RED REPORTS. He's a hunky, Cuban, ex-Navy SEAL who is hiding from his enemies by working in a strip club disguised as Sister Rose, an over-the-top dancing drag queen. Kudos to Priest for giving us such a great character!

Best Use of a Tanning Bed As a Weapon Against Vampires
Delilah Street in Carole Nelson Douglas' Virtual Virgin, the fifth book in her DELILAH STREET series.

Best Paranormal Chick Lit Series That Debuted in 2011
Sara Zettel's VAMPIRE CHEF MYSTERIES (first book—A Taste of the Nightlife), in which a mortal female chef owns a Manhattan restaurant that caters to vampires and werewolves.

Most Amusing Dialogue in a Paranormal Romance
Molly Harper's The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf, the second book in her NAKED WEREWOLF series. I could hear the characters in my head; they sounded just like a really good TV sit com.    

Best Paranormal Fiction Title of 2011
Diana Rowland’s My Life as a White Trash Zombie, the first book in her WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE series. I wish the story-telling had lived up to the title.

Best Paranormal Fiction Cover Art of 2011
Kristen Painter’s Blood Rights, the first book in her HOUSE OF COMARRÉ series. 

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UPDATE (2/26/2016)

Here are links to all of my "best of" lists from 2010 through 2015:

1 comment:

  1. Wow. What a list. I just recently got into fantasy / paranormal thrillers and have only read one book in the genre so far - "Deadly Destination" by Cat Denison ( It was so good that it got me interested in the whole genre, and I've been looking for lists like this so that I can fill up my Kindle with great reads. I might have to check out "Swamplandia" since I keep hearing great things about it!