It's February 1st, so here you go: the other half of that mandated pair of yearly blog posts that starts with 10 Best Books I Read Last Year, and ends with 10 Hotly Anticipated Reads of This Year. It's going to be a good year for reading! Here, in no particular order, are the ten books that top my list for 2012, some of which have been around for a long time, others of which will be released at some point over the next eleven months.
This one came out last year, and I heard such great things about it that I didn't dare pick it up. I've got deadlines to meet, and the last thing I needed was a spicy, decadent read about the French Revolution including a heroine who passes her day making wax death masks. But I can't wait to plunge into Michelle's new French world, having spent so much time in her versions of ancient Egypt and Rome.
Finally, a new Ursula Blanchard mystery! I've read and enjoyed all of Buckley's novels about the resourceful Ursula, lady-in-waiting and sometime spy for Elizabeth I. What sets this series of mysteries apart is the authenticity of the opinions expressed by the 16th century characters. Ursula is no striding 21st century miss, but a real woman of her time who struggles to balance her duties to Queen, country, husband, daughter, conscience, and God. “Queen Without A Crown” will apparently throw Ursula into the thick of yet another Mary Stuart plot against the Queen – here's hoping she takes some time off from intrigue and finally, finally gives in to all this passion she's been repressing, for at least four books, for her sweet and steady manservant.
“Moon and Sixpence” and “The Razor's Edge” are two of my favorite reads ever, so how is it I have not read “The Painted Veil” yet? I have no idea, but I'm determined to follow Maugham's idealistic hero and his frivolous erring wife on their journey to China this year, come what may.
There aren't too many books I would agree to give a blurb too before I had even read them. But if C.W. Gortner told me his next book was titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” I'd know two things: a) it would involve queens, intrigue, sex, betrayal, and the machinations of power, and b) I would not be able to put it down. His forthcoming tome on Isabella of Castile, I predict with confidence, will be no different.
Here's one YA dystopia series that is a lot of fun: think X-Men crossed with Stephen King's “Under the Dome.” But Grant's teenage heroes and anti-heroes, increasingly isolated in their bubble away from adults, are forced to grapple with weighty adult issues like self-government, war, cannibalism, racism, starvation, and religious mania as well as the more usual YA themes of romance and growing pains. The result is addictive story-telling, and thank the gods, the next installment is coming out the same day as my third book. Instead of obsessively checking and re-checking my Amazon rankings, I'll be head-down in the FAYZ with Michael Grant & Co.
I'm in serious “Downton Abbey” withdrawal, and my Anglophile mother assures me that “The Edwardians” will be just the ticket: a big multi-generational English family drama that obviously served as the model for all these “Upstairs, Downstairs” spinoffs. High tea, huge hats, saucy parlormaids and crusty dowagers – I'm there.
Yet another classic I haven't for some unfathomable reason gotten around to reading yet. I can quote the entire plot of the Iliad and even some direct passages, but I've yet to plow through the whole thing start to finish. Hector, tamer of horses, here I come.
My guilty pleasure read. I'm not really a fan of YA vampire fiction, but I gobble up Mead's work. Maybe it's the humor, maybe it's the politics, maybe it's her intelligent and fiery heroines who buck the trend by not being Mary Sues. But I can't wait for this one.
I'm listing these two together, not only because I know the authors, but because their books about the same historical figures are being released just a few months apart. The four daughters of the Count of Provence were all beauties who managed to bag kings for husbands: Sophie's “Sister Queens” focuses on the sibling rivalry and friendship between the eldest two, respectively queens of France and England, and Sherry's “Four Sisters, All Queens” brings in the younger two as well with their kingdoms of Germany and Sicily. I can't wait to see the two contrasting takes on a very interesting family. Not to mention sister drama that isn't about the Boleyn family.
So there's my reading list for 2012, or at least the start of it. What are you looking forward to reading this year?
What do writers read? That's Marshal's question over on "Writers Read," and it's a good 'un. As a historical fiction writer, it's probably no surprise that I read a lot of HF. But I try to dip into other genres too, in the spirit of expanding my horizons, and that's why my current reading list doesn't just have HF on it, but classics, thrillers, and YA dystopias . . .