Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten List: My Favourite Reads of 2011

Without further ado, here is a list of the ten books I most enjoyed reading in 2011.   Since I had difficulty determining which of several books to select as my last few picks, I decided to include those that didn't make the top ten cut as honourable mentions.  Click on the book title for a link, if applicable, to my review. 

My Top Ten

(1) A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin.   It was five long years between the release of books four and five of Martin's phenomenal A Song of Ice and Fire series, but this book was definitely worth the wait.  Martin is a master of the fantasy genre and he once again delivers with his latest novel.

(2) Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman.   Historical fiction at its finest, this novel follows Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their brood of children.  For me, Devil's Brood is one of Penman's best. 

(3) I Am The Chosen King by Helen Hollick (published in the UK as Harold the King).  This fantastic novel by Helen Hollick focuses on England in the years immediately leading up to the Norman Conquest.   Full of rich historical detail and well-developed characters, this is a definite must read for historical fiction fans.

(4) Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman.  This is the unforgettable story of Beattie Blaxland and her granddaughter, Emma.  The story shifts in time between the present day and the late 1920s - 1950s, and is set in the UK and Australia. 

(5) The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (published in the U.S. and elsewhere as Someone Knows My Name).   A beautifully written tale that follows the life of Aminato Diallo, who, as a young girl, was captured by slavers in Africa and sent to the United States as a slave.   

(6)  Mad Ship by Robin Hobb.  While I loved all three novels in Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy, this book was the best of the three.   Hobb creates such fascinating worlds and characters that her books are definitely a must read for fans of the fantasy genre. 

(7) Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran.   Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, this is a wonderfully engaging story of Marie Grosholtz, better known to the world as Madame Tussaud. 

(8) The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs.   Set in early Rome and the Etruscan city of Veii in the fourth century BC, this novel follows the life of Caecilia, a young Roman woman whose hand is offered in marriage to an Etruscan nobleman in order to cement a peace treaty between Rome and the neighboring Etruscan civilization.  

(9) Elizabeth I by Margaret George.   Hands down the best fictional account of Elizabeth I I've read, George's novel focuses on the later years of Elizabeth's reign, beginning at the time of the Spanish Armada. 

(10) The Restorer by Amanda Stevens.  Paranormal romance is not normally a genre I read, but this book came highly recommended (thanks Jenny Q!) so I decided to give it a try.   I couldn't put it down and can't wait for the next book to be published.

Honourable Mentions

(11) Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick.  Elizabeth Chadwick is one of the best writers of historical fiction out there today.   I wouldn't be surprised if her latest novel, which focuses on Empress Matilda and Queen Adeliza, makes an appearance on many Best of 2011 Historical Fiction lists. 

(12) Blackveil by Kristen Britain.  Blackveil is the fourth novel in Britain's Green Rider series, and I have mixed emotions about this one.  While I wasn't happy with many of the events of this novel, there is no question that I've thought about this book a lot since reading it early in 2011, and that I can't wait for the next installment in the series. 

(13) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.   One of the most unique fantasy novels I've had the pleasure of reading, Mistborn was a delight to read.   Sanderson builds a complex world, one full of interesting characters. 

(14) Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley.   Another great book from Susanna Kearsley.