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Janine’s Best of 2011 List

For the purposes of this list, I have excluded reissues, books published before 2011, and books which may present a conflict of interest, either because the author had a story in the Agony/Ecstasy anthology or because she assisted me with my novel-in-progress.

Here then are several of my favorite 2011 releases, listed in alphabetical order by author:

Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews (reviewed by Josephine)

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase (reviewed by Jane)

What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long (reviewed by Janet/Robin)

The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville (reviewed by Janet/Robin)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (reviewed by Jia)

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh (reviewed by Shuzluva and myself)

Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh (reviewed by me)



Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.


  1. Lisa J
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 10:57:40

    Kiss of Snow is definitely on my list for this year. This is one of my favorites in the series.

  2. Sunita
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 11:08:57

    Janine, did you see that Divergent just won the Favorite Book category at the Goodreads 2011 Reader’s Choice awards?

    I really need to read some of the books on your list!

  3. Janine
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 13:43:17

    @Lisa J: Kiss of Snow is probably my favorite book in the Psy/Changeling series, and Archangel’s Blade is likely my favorite in the Guild Hunter series, so I’d say Nalini Singh had a stellar year in 2011.

    @Sunita: No, I hadn’t seen that, but even with some weaknesses in the final quarter, Divergent was an incredible book. The more perspective I get on it, the more it impresses me. Amazing that Roth was only twenty-two when it was published.

  4. Janine
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 13:44:08


    I really need to read some of the books on your list!

    Let me know what you think of them when you do!

  5. Anna Cowan
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 17:42:23

    can you link these titles to reviews you’ve written for them? (If you have.) Lists are always good!

  6. Janine
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 19:05:18

    @Anna Cowan: Done, at least, to the best of my abilities. I haven’t reviewed most of these but I linked to the DA reviews of all of them, including my reviews of the Singh books.

    Additionally, some of my thoughts on the Loretta Chase can be found here and some of my thoughts on the Veronica Roth and Ilona Andrews books are here.

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 19:44:12

    Three of them are on my list – “Kiss of Snow,” the Neville and the Chase. Lovely books all, and great, absorbing reads. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed “Kiss of Snow,” because I don’t usually like young heroines, but I loved Sienna. The Chase was Loretta at the top of her game. Witty, historically on point and involving. Loved every word and can’t wait for the next. The Neville was a delightful surprise, since I hadn’t read her before, and she’s my discovery of the year.
    I would have loved the Long, but for the egregious and frequent errors, but her style was really enjoyable. The errors gave me so many “huh”? moments, I couldn’t relax into the story. Complete froth, though, and I found myself three chapters in to the latest one about the marquess before I realised that not only had I read it before, I’d reviewed it, too.
    The others I haven’t read, but I have two of them in my TBR pile.

  8. LSUReader
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 19:45:32

    Good list. I especially liked What I Did for a Duke and Archangel’s Blade.

  9. Janine
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 20:08:24

    @Lynne Connolly: The two Nalini Singh books rocked. Hard to say which one is my favorite book of the year but probably Kiss of Snow for the culmination of so many storylines. But Archangel’s Blade might actually be the more romantic to me.

    Re. the Loretta Chase, for me the top of her game is Last Night’s Scandal, the book about Olivia and Peregrine. I adored Marcelline every bit as much as Olivia, but I could have done without the little girl. Still, it was a terrific book, no doubt.

    It is hard for me to explain why I like Neville’s books so much, but I think it has to do with, for lack of a better word, the characters’ tenderness. I have used “charming” and “endearing” to describe them, and they are that, but “tender” gets to it more specifically. I don’t mean they are tender in the romantic sense (although sometimes there is that), what I’m trying to convey is their emotional vulnerability and softness. It is hard to articulate but I am trying because I have a friend who didn’t see anything special in the book, and although it wasn’t a perfect read for me, I thought it really was quite special.

    Re. the Julie Anne Long — I do find the made up history annoying and distracting at times (though probably not as much as you do since I don’t know the period as well), but this is an author who comes near to taking my breath away with her emotional and romantic qualities. The last quarter of What I Did for a Duke was a tour de force, IMO. I do understand others’ frustration and yet for me, when she’s on her game, she’s wonderful.

    I’m reading How the Marquess Was Won now and there’s this scene where the heroine catches herself staring at the hero. She wonders if charisma “was simply a patina formed from the accumulated stares of countless people over the years.” How many writers in the genre can come up with metaphors that fresh? Not many, IMO. I think I articulated my love for her writing best in my review of The Secret to Seduction.

  10. Janine
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 20:14:23

    @LSUReader: Glad you enjoyed the list! Since I’ve discussed What I Did for a Duke above, I’ll allow myself to go on about Archangel’s Blade for a bit. This book had an engine that wouldn’t quit. I felt such a thrill reading it. And who would have thought that Dmitiri of all people would have such an effect on me? I didn’t even like him before this book, but here I was captivated. Honor was a wonderful character too. Singh went to some dark places with these two, but for me that was a big part of what made their story romantic.

  11. kam luen
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 09:33:01

    hello, janine,
    I like your list .I do think roll call should be made for shadow fever by karen moning and thea harrison’s book esp the 1st book on dragos…

  12. Janine
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 11:15:27

    @kam luen: I haven’t read the Moning series. Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound came close to making the cut. It had a lot going for it, but there were other factors that made me ambivalent enough not to include it.

  13. wendy
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 02:38:48

    I’m glad The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville made your cut. What an awesome, crazy book. I gave it a B review on a different website, but I wish I’d given it an A.

  14. Janine
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 10:52:36

    @wendy: I think it was a B+ for me, but at least half my list is B+’s. I had a great time reading it.

  15. Smugglivus 2011 Guest Blogger: Janine of Dear Author | The Book Smugglers
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 13:02:03

    […] Smugglivus for the first time this year! My favorite book list for this post will differ from the best books of 2011 list that I wrote up for Dear Author, in that there I included only 2011 releases, and here I will […]

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