Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Top 12 Books of 2012

2012 was a great reading year for me.  I read some wonderful books and was introduced to some fabulous new to me authors.   Of the 91 books I read this year, the following 12 were my favourites and all earned either a 5 or 4.5 star rating:

(1) Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.   The sequel to the fabulous Wolf Hall, Mantel's latest novel of Thomas Cromwell focuses on the downfall of Anne Boleyn and is every bit as good as its predecessor.   I can't wait to read the final novel in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.    Mantel's Cromwell novels are a must read for any fan of Tudor-era historical fiction. 

 (2) The Riyria Revelations by Micheal J. Sullivan.  Okay, so I'm cheating with this one since the Riyria Revelations is composed of three novels rather than just one (Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron), but once you read the first book you'll immediately want to read the next two.   I love pretty much everything about this series, including the two main characters Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn, and recommend it to everyone I know who enjoys fantasy novels.    A prequel to the series, The Crown Tower, is set for release in August 2013 and is one of my most anticipated reads of 2013. 

(3) Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.  This work of non-fiction provides readers with Jon Krakauer's first hand account of the 1997 Mt. Everest disaster that saw the deaths of eight climbers.   I couldn't put this book down and, once finished, I couldn't stop thinking about the events detailed in it. 

(4)  The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani.  A wonderful work of historical fiction set in Italy and the United States in the early 20th century.  I fell in love with the two main characters and their story.  Although the time period and settings of this novel aren't ones I would normally choose when selecting a work of historical fiction to read, I'm very glad I decided to take a chance with this one. The Shoemaker's Wife is a truly beautiful book. 

(5) A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick. I've enjoyed every Elizabeth Chadwick novel that I've read, and this one is no exception.  Her attention to historical detail, well-developed characters, vivid settings and lovely prose make her novels must reads for me.  A Place Beyond Courage tells the story of John Marshall, father to William Marshall who is the main character in my favourite Chadwick novel, The Greatest Knight.  If you love historical fiction make sure you read this book (as well as Chadwick's other novels) as I think Elizabeth Chadwick is one of the best writers within the genre today. 

(6) The Master of Verona by David Blixt.   Set in early Renaissance Italy, this novel's principal protagonist is Pietro Alaghieri, son of the poet Dante.   A fabulous cast of characters, a great story, and lots of historical detail made this one a winner for me.   This is the first of David Blixt's novels that I've had the pleasure of reading, but it definitely won't be the last. 

(7) The King's Concubine by Anne O'Brien.   The star of this novel is the infamous Alice Perrers, mistress to English King Edward III.  While history has not been kind to Alice, very little is actually known about her life.   In this novel O'Brien has created a remarkably sympathetic portrait of Alice, one that is entirely plausible.   This book is also provides one of the best examples of the use of first person narrative that I've ever read. 

(8) The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock.  Set just before and during WWI, and featuring a stately manor home, its aristocratic inhabitants and those who serve them, The Passing Bells is recommended to fans of Downton Abbey.  Since I love Downton Abbey I simply couldn't resist reading this one.   Much of this book is concerned with WWI, and I think Rock has masterfully captured the horrors of the Great War.   I'm looking forward to reading the second novel in this trilogy, Circles of Time.  

(9) The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.   Another year, another Kate Morton book on my list of favourites.   I simply love Morton's novels and her latest release is no exception.   While lacking the Gothic elements that are the hallmarks of her other books, The Secret Keeper had me turning the pages into the wee hours wanting to know what was coming next.   Morton has such a lovely way with words that her novels are a treat to read.   Here's hoping it won't be too long before her next book comes out. 

(10) The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner.   Historical novelist C.W. Gortner's latest book is a biographical novel about Queen Isabella of Castille, a historical figure I knew little about prior to picking up this novel.   I particularly enjoyed how Gortner chose to characterize Isabella, who is portrayed as an intelligent, loyal and determined woman.   Given the novel doesn't cover the entirety of Isabella's reign, it is my hope that there will be a follow-up to this book in the future.

(11)  Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.  Ancient Egypt as a setting is not a particular favourite of mine when it comes to historical novels, but Nefertiti is a well-written and engaging look at ancient Egypt's most intriguing woman.  I particularly liked that the novel was told from the perspective of Nefertiti's younger sister.  Last year Moran's Madame Tussaud was included among my favourite reads of the year. 

(12) The Prophet by Amanda Stevens.  The third installment of Stevens' Graveyard Queen paranormal romance series is probably my favourite of the series thus far.   Paranormal fantasy/romance is not usually my thing, but this series has captivated me and I can't wait to read more. 

What were your favourite books of the year?