Discussion Forums - Historical Fiction

Topic: Time for...Best Reads of 2013

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Time for...Best Reads of 2013
Date Posted: 12/23/2013 8:07 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
Back To Top

Nothing spectacular this year but some very good reads:

Historical Fiction

  • First Man in Rome by McCullough
  • The Winter King, Enemy of God, Excalibur (The Arthur Books) by Cornwell
  • True Sisters by Dallas
  • The Absolutist by Boyne
  • The Flower Reader by Loupas
  • The Liar's Gospel by Alderman
  • The Power of One by Courtenay
  • Burial Rites by Kent
  • The Light Between the Oceans by Stedman
  • King's Man and Warlord by Donald

Non HF

  • Lords of Discipline by Conroy
  • The Water is Wide by Conroy
  • Winterdance by Paulsen
  • The Fault in Our Stars by Green
  • Brewster by Slouka
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Adiche
  • In a Sunburned Country by Bryson


Last Edited on: 12/28/13 10:50 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/23/2013 11:10 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
Back To Top

Good idea!

Not one of the better years for me.  Overall reading was down and I went unusually long stretches of defaulting to bubble gum reads, which are generally 3-ish, once in a while a hidden gem of a 4, if you're lucky.  The best books I read this year were:

5 stars:

When Christ and His Saints Slept, SKP (re-read)
Firelord, Parke Godwin
On Combat, Dave Grossman (non-fiction)
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
4.5 Stars:
Outlaw, Angus Donald
The Champion, Elizabeth Chadwick
The Messenger, Siri Mitchell
Legacy by Susan Kay
The Shadow Lamp by Stephen Lawhead (whole series is 4, 4+)
And one 4 star deserves mention:
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

Last Edited on: 12/23/13 11:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 5
Date Posted: 12/24/2013 7:56 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
Back To Top

Get back to you later. I think I'll have to start a dog's of the year thread to compliment this one. I know PG and Weir will be on that one devil

Date Posted: 12/24/2013 10:14 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
Back To Top

Wow. Looking through my list of read books, there aren't that many outstanding ones outside of EC's The Summer Queen. I do have some honorable mentions, great reads - just not the best of the best.

  • This Rough Magic, The Ivy Tree and Madam Will you Talk by Mary Stewart
  • Moondragon by Noel Vreeland Carter
  • Shadow Play by Katherine Sutcliff (yeah, I know it's a romance, but it was soooooooooooooo much fun).
  • Without Honor by Elizabeth Stuart
  • The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Date Posted: 12/24/2013 10:36 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,739
Back To Top

I'm having the same problem Cathy, but I will work on a list. For sure, my best read of this past year was A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II :: Adam MakosLarry Alexander but it's not fiction!

Date Posted: 12/24/2013 10:55 AM ET
Member Since: 4/27/2007
Posts: 8,554
Back To Top

Wow...now isn't the best time for me to make this list...I've been bagging almost everything I've started lately. I'll have to go back a bit and see what I liked earlier this year!

Date Posted: 12/24/2013 11:50 AM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 763
Back To Top

I read most of the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters this year, and they were all very good. Also on my list:

Heartstone by CJ Sansom ( I love this series!)

The Reckoning by Sharon Kay Penman (Enough said)

The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig



Date Posted: 12/24/2013 8:46 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2007
Posts: 1,899
Back To Top

Here are the ones that stuck out for me this year:

The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitgeralf by Therese Anne Fowler

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

Date Posted: 12/25/2013 12:45 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2008
Posts: 379
Back To Top

My favorite Historical Fiction I read in 2013 was In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

A fictional account of the young lives of Mirabal sisters Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, otherwise known in the Dominican Republic as Las Mariposas, describes their suffering and martyrdom in the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship.

Date Posted: 12/25/2013 9:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
Back To Top

Lots of good reading for me this year.  Some hf highlights:

Pompeii by Robert Harris

The Master by Colm Toibin

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys



Last Edited on: 12/25/13 9:19 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/26/2013 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,568
Back To Top

This was a very good reading year for me; lots of 4 and 5 star books and not too many truly bad ones!  The best of my bunch are:

Instruments of Darkness:  Crowther and Westerman Book 1 by Imogen Robertson

The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter

The Seven Wonders:   A Novel of the Ancient World by Steven Saylor

The Reckoning by Sharon Kay Penman

Treason by Meredith Whitford

Best non historical fiction read:  The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown


Date Posted: 12/28/2013 12:23 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
Back To Top

Last Edited on: 2/4/15 3:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/30/2013 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 1,976
Back To Top

My favorite for the year is a non-HF -  The Rosie Project.

Date Posted: 12/30/2013 5:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
Back To Top

Hi, guys!  Long time, no see!

This year was a mixed bag for me.  A lot of books I was "eh" on, and a few disappointments.  I did read/listen to a few really good books in 2013, though.  They are, in no particular order:


City of Thieves, David Benioff - Okay, I said in no particular order, but I believe this was the best read of 2013 for me.  A really, really great book!

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein - I listened to this on Audible, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Excellent

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, Jesse Bullington - One of those books one is  ashamed to say they liked as there is nothing approaching good literature here, nor is there much "history" other than the setting.  The characters are unlikeable, there are some elements of fantasy in it (which I generally don't care for), and often the book was gross, raunchy, and just generally inappropriate.  I LOVED it! One of those books that was just pure entertainment.

Paris, Edward Rutherfurd - Another winner from one of my favorite authors. I listened to this one, and experiencing it that way was perfection.  Now, Rutherfurd's New York?  That was a different story - see other thread.

The Potato Factory, Bryce Courtenay - Gritty, compelling, sweeping.  Again, a lot of unlikeable characters, but all of them were fascinating.  This one could be pretty harsh and brutal, but it is an excellent book.  I actually listened to it, and the narrator did a superb job.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas - How could I have never read this classic before?  I listened to it, and it was an old recording from the library.  Low quality and low budget (sometimes I could hear coughing or talking in the background, doors shutting, etc.), and the narrator sounded downright silly when doing female voices, but the story just kept me hooked.  I was sad when it ended.

Hmm, I note that almost all of my favorites this year were books I listened to rather than read.  Interesting. 

Last Edited on: 1/2/14 10:37 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/30/2013 8:18 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,739
Back To Top

Hey Shelley! I think it's perfectly acceptable to listen to books. Sometimes they are even more engrossing that way - plus, you can multi-task -lol!

Date Posted: 12/30/2013 11:19 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 260
Back To Top

Historical fiction:

  1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Clarke (5 stars; best book of the year)
  2. The Wicked Day by Stewart (4.5 stars)
  3. What Alice Knew by Cohen (4 stars)


5 stars: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Taylor (YA fantasy)

4.5 stars:

  • The Stolen Child  by Donohue (fantasy)
  • The Emperor's Soul by Sanderson (fantasy)
  • Wool by Howey (science fiction)
  • The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Palmer (fantasy/science fiction)
  • Shadow and Bone by Bardugo (YA fantasy)
  • The Curse of Chalion by Bujold (fantasy)
  • The Charnel Prince by Keyes (fantasy)

4 stars:

  • The City, Not Long After by Murphy (science fiction)
  • The Girl with Glass Feet by Shaw (fantasy)
  • Firethorn by Micklem (fantasy/HF)
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Lynch (fantasy)
  • The Scar by Dyachenko & Dyachenko (fantasy)
  • Siege and Storm by Bardugo (YA fantasy)
  • The Thief's Gamble by McKenna (fantasy)
  • The Last Enchantment by Stewart (fantasy/HF)
  • Hounded by Hearne (fantasy)
  • Divergent by Roth (YA fantasy/science fiction)
  • The Briar King by Keyes (fantasy)
  • The High Lord by Canavan (fantasy)


Last Edited on: 1/3/14 2:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/1/2014 5:45 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,436
Back To Top

Out of the 113 books Linda read (I want be just like her when I grow up), the following are her Best of Best (in no particular order) ...


  • Ride the Wind, Robson
  • Out of the Easy, Sepetys
  • Orphan Train, Kline
  • Rose Under Fire, Wein
  • 1356, Cornwell
  • Power of One, Courtenay

Honorable Mentions (Fiction) include:

  • Wild Rose, Donnelly
  • Snow Child, Ivey
  • Heretic's Wife, Vantrease



  • Unbroken, Hillenbrand
  • Team of Rivals, Goodwin




Date Posted: 1/1/2014 6:09 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,436
Back To Top

I didn't get nearly as much reading as I wanted to in 2013 ... had a career shift, watched too much television and devoted a large number of hours to the work of the Stephens County Humane Society. Nonetheless, I read some amazing books, to include favorites:

  • Code Name Verity, Wein
  • Shoemaker's Wife, Trigiani
  • The Passing Bells, Rock
  • A Spear of Summer Grass, Raybourn
  • The Corinthian, Heyer (Best HR)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Winter Rose / Wild Rose, Donnelly
  • Jacob's Ladder, McCaig
  • The Yard, Grecian

Looking forward to a great year of reading in 2014 ... and I have started it off just right with Molokai'i.



Date Posted: 1/2/2014 1:36 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
Back To Top

My best read of the year was The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I'll be on the lookout for more books by this author.

Some others I really liked include:

  • 1356 by Bernard Cornwell
  • The Forest Laird by Jack Whyte
  • Sworn Sword by James Aitcheson
  • The Dawn Stag by Jules Watson
  • An Echo in the Bone by Dianna Gabaldon
  • The Mist on Bronte Moor by Aviva Orr
  • Child of the Phoenix by Barbara Erskine
Date Posted: 1/2/2014 2:43 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,436
Back To Top

Genie,  1356 was one of my top reads for this year also; and Forest Laird was a favorite of 2012.  Sworn Sword is on my wish list!



Date Posted: 1/2/2014 3:31 PM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2005
Posts: 5,238
Back To Top

From the limited amount of historic fiction that I read in 2013, these were the 4* and 5* reads:

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (5*)
  • Death at Gallows Green by Robin Paige
  • A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly
  • The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell

And my number one favorite book in 2013 (which starts out as historic fiction, but concludes as contemporary) was And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseni.

Date Posted: 1/2/2014 11:19 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,436
Back To Top

Genie, I also loved The Kitchen House. Something so very compelling about that book!

And, Lynne, I also really liked Stonehenge. It seems to be one of his least regarded books, but I thought it was great!


Date Posted: 1/3/2014 10:03 PM ET
Member Since: 7/29/2006
Posts: 1,366
Back To Top

My best Historical Fiction for the year.....LEONARDO'S SWANS by Karen Essex

Best Mystery....DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay

Best Contemporary Fiction....MRS. KIMBLE by Jennifer Haigh  and  DIVISADERO by Michael Ondaatje

Wishing everyone all the best in 2014!

Warm Regards, Anna