Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Top Reads of the Year

 This is the 3rd installment in the Outlander series and is my favorite so far.  This one had a little bit of everything.  I am planning on finishing the Outlander books that are currently out this year so I can get ready for the new one.  I don't think I'll ever get enough of Jamie and Claire!
 This is classic historical fiction at its best!  Katherine tells the story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt who had a love affair that lasted for decades.  It wasn't all roses though and this book sucked me right into their story.  So many people had recommended this one to me over the past couple of years and they were right!  Even though this book is not a light read I was sorry to see it end.
 Here is another one that everyone and their mom has read but I somehow never got around to.  Although it dragged for me here and there the characters (especially Prior Philip and Jack) grew on me and by about half way through I couldn't put it down.  This is one of my longest reads of the year (almost 1,000 pages!) but I'm glad I took the plunge and read it.  I have World Without End on my TBR for this year and I'm hoping its just as good.
 I really loved this historical mystery and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.  Although the mystery itself was a good one, it was the main characters of anatomist Gabriel Crowther and fiesty Harriet Westerman that really sold the story for me. The back and forth exchanges between these two and the multiple twists thrown into the story kept me flying through the pages to see who the culprit was.  Gabriel and Harriet might even be one of my favorite pairings (after Jamie and Claire and Lady Julia and Brisbane).

 I have recommended this book to so many people this year.  I absolutely loved the story of sisters Marguerite who becomes Queen of France and Eleanor who becomes Queen of England.  These two sisters endure war, political and personal strife but always manage to maintain their bond.  The writing in this book was SO GOOD! I will continue recommending this to everyone and I can't wait for Sophie's next book!
This book has been described as a Da Vinci code like historical mystery/thriller.  That is true in the sense that there are a lot of didn't see it coming moments in this novel but the writing is 10 times better than Da Vinci Code.  Sister Joanna Stafford's quest to discover an ancient relic while Cromwell and his cronies threaten Dartford Priory made for a good fast paced read.  I will be starting the second book-The Chalice-soon and I can't wait.
 I had never read Jack Whyte's Camulod chronicles but I was intrigued by his take on Scottish legend William Wallace.  Here Wallace recounts his last confession to his cousin Jamie who is now a priest and medieval Scotland comes alive. I ended up liking this William Wallace a lot better than the Braveheart version.  His next book on Robert the Bruce is out in August and it is another one I am anxious to get my hands on.

The first graduating class of MIT races to stop a madman that is menacing the city of Boston using science.  This is my first time reading Matthew Pearl and I was totally cheering on this group of four unlikely friends.  I especially loved main character Marcus and girl science geek Ellen.  Originally I thought this book might not be my cup of tea and was going to pass but I was pleasantly surprised by it.  I will be picking up the Matthew Pearl novels I haven't read yet at some point.

This book wins the "Best Barnes and Noble impulse purchase of the Year" hands down.  This wonderful novel tells the story of Mary Bowser who was a slave who was freed by her former owners, the Van Lew family, and sent to Philadelphia to be educated.  She returns to VA to spy for the Union as a slave in the household of Jefferson Davis.  The writing was beautiful, the story was compelling, and the history was fascinating.  This list is in no particular order but if I were ranking them, this one would be near the top.

I just finished reading this one earlier this month.  I had it on my shelf forever and decided to participate in the tour since I already had the book.  I loved it!  The main focus is on Pietro Alighieri, son of famed poet Dante.  He soon becomes a confidante of Cangrande, ruler of Verona.  Along for the ride are his two friends Antony Capuletto and Mari Montecchio whose love for the same woman will fuel a fued that will become legend.  There was so much happening in this book and not being well versed in Italian history this book totally captivated me.  Glad I finally decided to pick it up!

Honorable Mentions:

I am really glad that the "it" time period in historical fiction right now seems to be WWI and WWII era books because I really like reading about this time period.  This was my introduction to smarty pants super spy Maggie Hope.  Princess Elizabeth's Spy was an engaging mystery with an ending I really did not see coming (those are the best kinds of mysteries!)  I'll have to go back now and read Mr. Churchill's Secretary. It seems all but one of my best reads this year have been by authors I had not read previously.  I wonder if Queen Elizabeth has read this one? :)

Abel Truman was probably one of my favorite characters of the year.  He fought on the side of the Confederacy because he was in a Confederate state when the war broke out.  He has seen the horrors of war, experienced profound loss, and now we get to follow his story as a gruff old man living in wilds of Washington.  I can't put my finger on exactly why this book (and this character) resonated with me so much but I really enjoyed the writing and the story.

Best Non-Historical Reads of the Year:


Click below to see my best reads from past years:

Best of 2010
Best of 2011

Also don't forget to check out my upcoming historical fiction pages to see what's in store for 2013!

Upcoming HF December 2012-April 2013
Upcoming HF May 2013-October 2013


  1. Fabulous list, Holly. Katherine is one of my all-time favourites novels, so I'm glad you enjoyed it, too. I also really enjoyed Instruments of Darkness, and really need to make a point of continuing with the series this year. The Forest Laird is on my must read in 2013 list.

    All the best to you and your family in 2013.

  2. Yay for Voyager! And all of the Outlander books! I love the dearly, I can't wait for the new one next fall!

    Also, The Pillars of the Earth was so good, I should re-read it sometime in the next couple years.

    Happy 2013!

  3. The Outlander series is on my all time favorite list! A few of your choices have made my favorite lists.

  4. I own Pillars of the Earth and I'm really looking forward to reading it, but it's just so long!

  5. Crown is on my TBR!
    here is my wrap-up, with pies and charts:

  6. I am so glad to see Master of Verona making your list. I read it when it first came out and loved it. I just read the sequel and intend to read more.

    Voyager is my favourite Outlander book too, mainly because of the print shop scene. I recently reread the first book so I am hoping to reread the next two this year.

    Lots of other fab books on your list too!