As we once again pack away our holiday decorations and hang up our new calendars, it’s time to take one last look back on the old year before diving head-first into the new one. So now that we’ve recapped the best and worst in 2011’s movies, let’s move on to the year’s books.
While the movies of 2011 may have left us feeling a little…underwhelmed, we here at NightsAndWeekends.com had plenty of thrilling, captivating, and downright hilarious books to keep us entertained from January through December. And although the recession continued to rage on all around us, books still provided us with hours of fun (not to mention a welcome escape from reality) at a reasonable price (or, for those of us with a good library nearby, no price at all).
We’ve covered shelves full of new releases this year—so, once again, I’ve teamed up with Margaret Marr to recap the year’s best. If you missed any of them, here’s your chance to spend that Amazon gift card that ended up in your stocking this year!
Margaret’s Top Ten of 2011:
Willy by Robert Dunbar
A challenging and satisfying psychological horror
Nights of the Red Moon by Milton T. Burton
A spicy, humorous, and rousing good mystery
A Killing Season by Priscilla Royal
An evocative medieval mystery
Double Prey by Steven F. Havill
A gritty mystery set in the dry wasteland of Posadas, New Mexico
American Vampire by Jennifer Armintrout
A new and fresh vampire romance in an otherwise overdone genre
Dead Lawyers by Debra Tash
A hilarious and suspenseful mystery
Delirious by Daniel Palmer
Psychological suspense at its best
A Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer
A masterpiece of suspense
Zero Day by David Baldacci
With a masterful hand, Baldacci hammers out an intelligent plot with levels of clever turns that eventually lead to an unpredictable end.
Skull Feeder by Pamela Chillemi-Yeager and Dana Joseph Schaff
Suspense and horror build in a small, peaceful town where evil takes a stroll, making Skull Feeder a scary and intense ride—one you’ll want to stay on, no matter how much it frightens you—to a most unexpected end.
Kristin’s Top Ten:
The Ridge by Michael Koryta
Michael Koryta has become one of my go-to authors, thanks to his recent trio of haunting supernatural thrillers. His most recent follows a small-town sheriff as he investigates a series of strange occurrences (and a suicide) that seem to revolve around a strange lighthouse in the middle of the Kentucky woods. It’s an eerie and suspenseful tale that builds slowly, making it impossible to put it down and walk away.
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson
Westerson never ceases to entertain me with her Medieval Noir series, featuring 14th-century sleuth Crispin Guest—and the fourth book in the series is the best yet, combining history, religion, and English literature for a gripping whodunit. The clever mystery is made all the more fascinating by the fact that it takes place in Canterbury—with Geoffrey Chaucer and his beloved pilgrims as characters.
Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore
Maybe it’s because I happen to live in the Midwest. Maybe it’s because I’m sick of stories about moody teen vampires. But I adored Scott Kenemore’s clever undead adventure, Zombie, Ohio. Told from the point-of-view of a newly undead college professor, it’s unlike any zombie thriller you’ve read before. It’s smart, it’s mysterious, and it’s absolutely hilarious.
Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier
The perfect companion piece to Zombie, Ohio, Max Brallier’s quirky choose-your-own-adventure-style novel takes readers into the heart of a zombie attack on New York City. From there, it’s up to you to decide how to handle the situation. With so many options (and so many geeky references to zombie flicks), it’s an addictive little book—one that you’ll find yourself picking up time and time again.
Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
This year, the world saw the end of the Harry Potter franchise—with the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 hitting theaters this summer. But all is not lost for kids who like to read. Author Lisa McMann is still cranking out noteworthy novels like 2011’s Cryer’s Cross, a dark and haunting thriller about small town whose teenagers start to go missing.
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Speaking of great books for young readers…. 2011 also saw the release of the English translation of Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red, a mysterious fantasy about an otherwise ordinary teenage girl with the ability to travel through time. Though the abrupt ending (which leads into the second book in the series) is admittedly rather maddening, the rest of the story is clever and absolutely captivating.
The Cypress House by Michael Koryta
I think I may have already mentioned that Michael Koryta is hot right now (see above). He’s so hot, in fact, that he gets two spots on this year’s top ten. Early in 2011, he released another one of my favorites, The Cypress House, a haunting noir-like thriller about a traveling laborer who’s haunted by visions of death. It’s suspenseful, it’s supernatural, and it’s absolutely spine-chilling.
Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
To ensure that he keeps cranking out bestsellers, James Patterson often teams up with another author—and Michael Ledwidge is easily my favorite of the bunch. Not only has he co-authored the Michael Bennett series (my favorite of Patterson’s series), but he also co-wrote the recent standalone thriller, Now You See Her, a fast-paced thriller about a woman whose dark past has finally caught up to her. It was my favorite beach read of the summer—and it’s one of the best Patterson thrillers in years.
Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens
In 2010, Chevy Stevens broke into my top ten with her chilling debut, Still Missing. In 2011, she returned with another chart-topper, Never Knowing, the story of a woman whose search for her birth mother leads to some disturbing truths. The engaging characters and its dark and riveting story makes it another must-read from an up-and-coming author.
Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick
My list has been pretty heavy this year, so I’ll close with something much lighter: a fun-filled cozy mystery. Death on Tour follows a budget tour group through Egypt as they try to cope with the murder of one of their fellow tourists. The story is stocked with fascinating (and mysterious) characters—and the tour itself makes it all the more enjoyable. It may not be as thought-provoking as some of the others on my list this year, but it was still one of the most entertaining adventures I took all year.
Now that we’ve had a chance to look back on our favorite reads of the last year, it’s time to close the book on the books of 2011 and start devouring the mystery, adventure, thrills, romance, and laughs of the books of 2012. Once again, we’ll be reporting back on all of the best and the worst reads of the year—as we have for nearly a decade—so when you’re searching for a good read, look no further than NightsAndWeekends.com.