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I think we should do our top 10 for 2011, this is from the other blog I write for. What are yours?
When I began this I was thinking the 10 best books published in 2011; or what I read in 2011? So I opted for 10 best reads of 2011.
1. Lionheart, Sharon Kay Penman. No great thought here, Penman is a reader’s author and author’s author and educator’s author. This is the 4th book in what was going to be a trilogy about the Angevin dynasty, but will in truth be a pentalogy; with King’s Ransom to be published in a couple of years, keeping my fingers crossed for late 2013.
2. Lady of the English Elizabeth Chadwick, such is my love of Elizabeth Chadwick’s work, I imported this one, and it will be available in Sept 2012 for US release. Chadwick tells the story of the Anarchy (the 1st civil war in Norman Britain) from the view points of the Empress Matilda and her step mother Adeliza of Louvain Dowager Queen of England. Pure unbeatable Chadwick.
3. and 4. Outlaw and Holy Warrior by Angus Donald, oh Angus what you did with Robin Hood was just magic. I can’t wait to get my hands on King’s Man, coming summer 2012. It is smart, funny, brutal and hard to put down. Some would consider these “guys” books, but if you like Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell you’ll love these.
5. Fortune’s Son by Emery Lee, Ms. Lee is a talent and she is just getting started, I will be reading her work for years to come I have no doubt. She brings the mid Georgian era to life in lush detail, in a romantic story with real historical worth.
6. Genghis Birth of and Empire by Conn Igullden, I read the first 3 books in this series, I probably never would have read this had it not been for a read along. It was a mesmerizing account of the Mongol ruler’s life.
7. Forever Queen and I am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick these books are about the last Saxon rulers of England. Helen’s passion for the Saxon cause and need to offer the other side of the story has given us excellent account from the point of view of the conquered.
8. Midwife of the Blue Ridge, by Christine Blevins this was one of those books I just picked up one day I was in the mood for something set in the colonial period and I was surprised by this little book. This is also a good book for those who are having Outlander with drawls.
9. The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell, Ms. Bagwell’s telling of Nell Gwyn’s story has taken some heat for being very sexually explicit. In the books defense I have to say I thought it was very appropriate to the subject matter and time period. Nell was after all a prostitute at a young age about 12, and actress then one of Charles II mistresses. But for those who dislike explicit content this may not ne the book for you. Bagwell’s back ground is in the theater and so the book revolves more around Nell’s life in the theater than it does in Charles court.
10. The King’s Courtesan by Judith James, surprisingly enough this last book is based on Nell Gwen, a “what if story”. James tells the story through this purely fictional character. This might not be everyone’s idea of historical fiction but I believe James approach works. The fact that she is very open about this device is refreshing. Her research is impeccable and her stories are heartrendingly real when dealing with the abuse that drives many people to destructive lifestyles.
1. Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson is the latest offering in her Crispin Guest series. Which Ms. Westerson calls Medieval Noir, and the description fits the story perfectly. A disgraced knight stripped of title and fortune is forced to survive on his wits and fists in 14th century London, by becoming a tracker, which is really a private investigator. It is atmospheric, humorous and again well researched.
2. The whole Medicus series by Ruth Downie, is set in Roman Britain. Downie’s protagonist is a Medic or doctor called Russo he is a divorced military doctor and has been sent to Britain, you get the sense he isn’t really thrilled by the assignment but would rather be there than at home dealing with his home improvement mad step mother, his teen aged half sisters and his harried brother and his fecund wife. I love to laugh and find myself doing just that. I find the detail of a solders life and that of the native inhabitance of Britain fascinating.
3. India Black and the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr. I love this series Carr writes a completely enjoyable caper novel, that is witty, irreverent, snarky and laugh out loud funny. Her character the salty India Black is a madam who has stumbled into being useful to Her Majesty’s Government. Her handler French is the perfect foil, a suave handsome refined secret agent to the crown. Where others fear to tread India is compelled to go.
4. Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas is the first in a series I read them all this year and loved them. Thomas is a student of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He really loves and understands the time period and brings 1880 London to life. His Protagonists Barker and Llewelyn are so interesting that you will want to read them all. I just wish I knew when the next one will be released.
5. Dark Inquiry by Deanna Raybourn, This is Ms. Raybourn’s 5th book in the Lady Julia Grey Series, great witty dialogue, wonderful period detail interesting characters. Julia’s antics and those of her family are driving Brisbane a bit mad especially as he is not really accepted as good enough for Julia by her father and her elder brother. This complicates the relationship between Brisbane and Julia as they learn how to live together as man and wife.
6. Trail of Ink by Mel Starr, this series takes place in 14th century England in and around Oxford. Starr’s protagonist is an Oxford educated physician Hugh de Singleton, who has become Bailiff to Lord Talbot as well as a physician.
What I like about Starr's writing is that he really captures the time period, the research is evident, and the story flows onto the page. Hugh isn't a super sleuth, he makes mistakes and in these books you see his evolution as he learns how to investigate crimes. His characters are flawed and funny, the plots are simple but the reasons behind them are not. I am looking forward to Unhallowed Ground the fourth book in the series.
7. Martyr by Rory Clements, is the first book in the John Shakespeare series, John is William’s brother and works for Wolsingham Elizabeth I’s spy master. If you know anything about history you know that Elizabeth’s early reign was anything but smooth sailing, between Papists threats and foreign interference she needed a man like Wolsingham, who in turn needed men like John Shakespeare. This series shows real promise.
8. Desperate Remedy by Martin Stephens is set during the reign of James I again it has to do with the secret agents for the crown. Can you imagine what it would be like if those in power today felt that doing away with political enemies was an option? This book revolves about the Gun Powder Plot and Guy Fawkes.
9. The Hanover Square Affair, by Ashley Gardner, now finding this series was a happy accident the first book was a freebie on my Nook which led of course to purchasing the whole series. Captain Lacey is a wounded Peninsular War veteran, and has had to retire on half pay. To make ends meet he begins to take on cases, completely by accident. There is really nothing new here, but I just really like the characters Ashley Gardner has created.
10. Still Life with Murder, by P.B. Ryan the Gilded Age Mysteries. Well this time we are in America Boston in fact just after the civil war. Ryan’s protagonist is Nell Sweeney, governess to the wealthy Hewitt family. Rumor has it that one of the Hewitt’s two sons thought to have died in the infamous Andersonville POW camp, is actually alive and has been accused of murder. Why had he not come home to his grieving family? Why does he resist their help now when his life is in the balance? At the behest of Mrs. Hewitt Nell goes to find out. All 6 books have Nell helping to solve crimes with the help of the Hewitt’s.
Don’t go there I am warning you.
The biggest dog of the year hands down goes to Land of the Painted Cave by Jean Auel. Someone should slap the editor and the publishers should be ashamed of themselves! I cannot help but feel sorry for Auel she should have stopped while she was ahead.
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My top ten reads of 2011 (using a very creative method of counting):
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Let's see. Mine are quite different from Lettie's and Deb's lists. My best HF read of the year is Molok'i, 5 stars plus. Wonderful, wonderful read. Few of my resds hit 5 stars. The better ones are 4 stars. I had many great fantasy reads this year which I will not list here.
1. My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
2. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
3. The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough
4. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
5. Tuck by Stephen Lawhead
6. Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead
7. Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
9. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
9. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
10. Dorie LaValle by Mary Desjarlais
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When I scoured my reading log and started picking out my top 10, I ended up with 13. I weeded out three, but they aren't really the bottom three of the 13, it's that their authors had other books on the list, too, and I deselected based on how those books ranked amount themselves.
These are more or less in order:
1) Knight's Fee by Rosemary Sutcliff
2) Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
3) Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick (my new overall favorite of her books)
4) The Far Pavillions by MM Kaye
5) Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow
6) Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
7) The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff
8) The Winter sea by Susannah Kearsey
9) Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell
10) Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou
This list could go on a long way, because I had a lot of 4.5 and 5 star reads this year. But the ones that I originally tagged as Top 10, but had to trim down to 10 are:
Calico Pallace by Gwen Bristow. If I were rating it 1-13, this would 6.
Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff. In a list of 13, this would be about 8, just a touch behind her The Lantern Bearers. It was difficult to choose between the two, but ultimately, Lantern Bearers resonated with me just a bit more.
Prince of Darkness by Sharon Kay Penman. 12/13.
The Widow's War by Sally Gunning
The Moon Below by Barbara Bickmore
Honolulu by Alan Brennert
Jubilee Trial by Gwen Bristow
Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden
Savannah by Eugenia Price
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Distant Star by Barbara Bickmore
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (this was a re-read and the best book all year)
Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
The Bruce Trilogy by Nigel Tranter
Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Woolley
Genghis, Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden
The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou
Queen of Swords by Judith Tarr
The Horus Road by Pauline Gedge
The Brothers of Glastonbury by Kate Sedley
To Kingdom Come by Will Thomas
The Wicked Winter by Kate Sedley
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
The Wiseman's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
1066 The Hidden History in the Bayeaux Tapestry by Andrew Bridgeford
Hi, guys! Waves!!!!!
I can't even recall what I've read this year, which is really lame of me because I haven't read much. Maybe 18 books. I know. I suck. I'll be back later to post the faves. I just had a couple of comments.
So, Lionheart is a winner, eh? I had pre-ordered it through Amazon, so I've had it since it came out in like what? October? I just haven't gotten to it yet. Plus, I read the last two books of this SKP series like back to back earlier this year, and I kind of needed a break from Henry II & his wacky family.
I see Aztec is on more than one list. Yea, Aztec lovers!!!! That, my friends, is probably my second favorite book of all time. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice has always been and will probably always be #1, but Aztec is really, really close.
Deb - I've had The Count of Monte Cristo on my shelf for years, and I swear I will get to it in 2012. I've never heard from anyone at this forum who has read it and didn't completely love it.
Letty - Thanks for nothing! My goal for 2012 is to read more (my knitting obsession ate up most of my reading time this year, but I've vowed to take a more balanced approach to my hobbies next year) , but I want to read some of the MANY, MANY, MANY books I already have. Your detailed post has made me want more books. Grrr. For now I'm going to limit myself to wishlisting only one, The Darling Strumpet. You got me with "Ms. Bagwell’s telling of Nell Gwyn’s story has taken some heat for being very sexually explicit." Oooh, explicitness? I'm all over that, baby!
Okay, my favorite HF's:
While We're Far Apart ~ Lynn Austin ~ WW2
Fire By Night ~ Lynn Austin ~ Civil War
Ladies of Missalonghi ~ Coleen McCollough ~ turn of the century Australia
Shadow Women ~ Angela Hunt ~ ancient Egypt
Alice's Tulips ~ Sandra Dallas ~ Civil War
Sarah's Key ~ Tatiana de Rosney ~ WW2 and mordern day France
For Time and Eternity ~ Allison K Pittman ~ 1800's Utah
For the King's Favor ~ Elizabeth Chadwick ~ Middle Ages
Medicus ~ Ruth Downie ~ ancient Rome
I also read the first two books in the Bright Empires series by Sephen Lawhead. They would fall into a time travel/fantasy catagory. They were a lot of fun.
Good grief! All of my favorites seem to have already been mentioned here but I will add:
OUTLAW by Angus Donald
HOLY WARRIOR by Angus Donald (sorry Letty - I know you already have the first two on your list, but I can't rave about these enough)
KING"S MAN by Angus Donald (this series gets better and better!)
The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas
Treason by Meredith Whitford
Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon
Where Shadows Dance by C S Harris
Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth
Eye of the Red Tsar by Sam Eastland
Martyr and Revenger by Rory Clements
(not exactly historical but written in the 30's and 40's so...) any book by Arthur Upfield
Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand (already mentioned, but a great, great book)
The Storm by Margriet de Moor
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Like Cathy, I found many of my all-time favorites on Deb's list. And, I'm encouraged to see several books listed that are on my list to read early in the new year: The Bruce trilogy, Aztec, Caleb's Crossing, and Moloka"i
My best of 2011 -
Count of Monte Cristo
Angus Donald's Robin Hood trilogy
The Templar trilogy by Jan Guillou (Road to Jerusalem was the first one, just great!)
The Boudica series by Manda Scott - read all four back to back and hated to see them end
Queen of Swords, Judith Tarr
Sherwood, and Robin and the King, Parke Godwin (very different look at Robin Hood, set during time of William the Conqueror)
Zeminder, Valerie Fitzgerald
Rose Garden, Susanna Kearsley
Daughter of the Red Deer, Joan Wolf
As for mysteries, I have really enjoyed the Sebastian St. Cyr series. And although non-HF, I was captivated by the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. I've also gotten hooked on Jack Reacher.
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1. True History of the Kelly Gang (Carey)
1. Watership Down (Adams)
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In no particular order,
Anything else I have are in the four star range of honorable mentions, while I like them a lot I wouldn't put them in a top top categor.
Shelley, get back here. Knitting? Pffft. That's what audio books are for, missy. That's no excuse to disappear on us!
Gosh, this is always hard...but fun too. I read some great books in 2011!
Great Audio Books
Great Reads, Not Historical...
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Middle Passage - Charles Johnson
Junkyard Dogs - Craig Johnson
Enemy of God - Cornwell
A Long Walk to Water - Park
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio - Ryan
The Widow's War - Gunning
Kavalier & Clay - Chabon (haven't quite finished yet but, this guy can write)
This was a disappointing year. I read a lot of so-so books and authors that I thought would make the top ten just didn't appeal to me as much as I thought/hoped they would (Penman, Chadwick, Jaimy Gordon and Daniel Woodrell).
Man, I suck! I still haven't been back here to post my faves of 2011. Will try to do that tonight. I do know that the book I'm currently reading, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, will definitely be on the list. Fabulous, compelling, intriguing book!
Vicky - Jeanne has suggested audio books as well, but I just can't get into audio books. My attention wanders when I listen to things. I guess I'm more of a visual person. LOL! I may give it a try, though, just to kill two birds with one stone and get the most bang for my buck out of the precious little time I have for my hobbies.
Shelly -- I loved Fingersmith. I've also found that some audio books work for me and some don't. For some reason, the ones that work best for me are often in first person. In terms of HF, I've thoroughly enjoyed The Black Tower, the Flavia de Luce books, and the Bloody Jack books. Outside of HF, I've listened to some terrific memoirs -- Angela's Ashes, A Girl Named Zippy, All Over But the Shoutin'. And you can't go wrong with the Bill Bryson books -- loved listening to A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country. I also loved Simon Vance's renditions of Larsson's Millenium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) though because these are longer books and I only listen to audios in the car and I rarely drive long distances, these took a while to get through. But, my mind wanders as well and sometimes I just have to turn off the CD.
My picks, in no particular order:
Homestead was the biggest surprise, and has stayed with me the longest -- I find I keep thinking about the story and "seeing" the setting in the Alps in my mind.
Shelley, I'm with you, I can't do audios either. Instead of listening to the story, I find myself thinking, "Yeah, yeah, come on, get on with it!".
My favorites in HF:
My non-HF favorites:
Outlaw, Elizabeth Street and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter would win for my very favorites of the year.
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From SKP her 5 favorites http://www.npr.org/2011/12/16/143149380/a-passion-for-the-past-2011s-best-historical-fiction