Top Ten of 2012

My top ten reads for 2012 feel a little more consistent this year than in other years.  I read like a mad thing -- more than 130 books! -- and there were so many winners!  Narrowing down my original list of 23 was agonizing!

So here's the list.  Almost all are historical novels -- perhaps my favorite genre -- and all save for one were new releases in 2012. One male author this year (in 2011, six made the list, and in 2010, none made the list). At least one is an 'indie' published novel (or two, if you count the Rinehart reissue as an indie).

What do you think of this list?  What made your top ten for 2012?

Jesse Blackadder, The Raven's Heart

Having finished this most recently, I don't have a great deal of distance: I'm still caught up in the warm fuzzies and swoony raptures over finishing a really good, chunky book. Blackadder's unique heroine offered entree to a familiar historical figure (Mary, Queen of Scots) and a genre I'm not wild about (historical royals), and I found myself captivated from the first handful of pages. The queer romance didn't hurt either. Extra perk: discovering a new publisher dedicated to lesbian fiction. Yum!

Karen Harper, Mistress of Mourning

Silly as it may be, when I like a character to the point I want her as a real-life friend, well, that usually indicates a winner.  Harper's 16th century novel of a widowed chandler (candle-maker) who gains the confidence of a monarch while involved in some secret missions was a breezy delight, and I just adored Varina, our heroine.  A novel of dual POVs that charmed me, I inhaled this book in about a day.  

Jane Harris, Gillespie & I

This book might win for the whiplash wait-oh-my-god-what-just-happened? moment of the year. From the first page, I adored our sketchy, unreliable narrator Harriet, pompous and filled with self-importance. Harris' locale -- 1880s Glasgow -- was interesting and fascinating, and Harriet's snobbish pursuit to ingratiate herself into artist Ned Gillespie's family was painfully hilarious until ... ! As with my review, I won't say more, but the snap moment in the middle was awesome. I can't shake this book or Harriet.

Rashad Harrison, Our Man in the Dark

I was really blown about by this novel. It felt 'dangerous', in a way -- featuring the unsavory aspect a revered American icon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. --and had wonderful sense of time and place, prompting me to suggest it's a kind of historical novel. Set in the 1960s, the novel follows a fictional employee of King's, whose ambitions and delusions lead to his downfall.  Tackling the Civil Rights movement, race relations, the FBI investigation of King, this was an eye-opening book and a delicious kind of noir thriller.

Sadie Jones, The Uninvited Guests

I know opinions are split on this one, but for me, this was one million percent a win.  I adored this book from the cover through to the last page, and I thought Jones nailed the snotty superficiality of the Edwardian priviledged while evoking a ghost story reminiscent of Henry James.  I adored every character and hung on every word.  A sort of black-ly comedic ghostly historical novel.

Janice Law, Fires of London

It would not be out of place for me to simply say 'om nom nom' about this one. Seedy, slimy, sexy, gritty, grimy, gorgeous -- this short, snappy historical novel about Francis Bacon (the surrealist painter) in World War II London just blew my mind.  I'm rarely clamoring for a sequel or a new series to commit to, but I am desperate for more of Law's Bacon.  For those who enjoy WWII novels, this is a must; and for those who are over that era, consider this one for the unique angle.

Anouk Markovits, I Am Forbidden

This novel was devastating: beautiful, sad, melancholy, heartbreaking, captivating.  A family saga of two girls from a conservative religious community, this novel literally kept me up all night in my race to finish.  (I was delayed by tears more than once!) Markovits' writing was uncomplicated and clear, conveying the alien world of a conservative Hasidic sect in a manner that made it easy for me to sink into the story.

Maryanne O'Hara, Cascade

Every blogger who has seen the cover has had the same response as me: hello, gorgeous. Happily, I found the book as captivating as the cover.  O'Hara's novel of an artist, a wife, a visionary, and American citizen is unforgettable, a moving story of choices, losses, gains, and the trades made between head and heart.  The quietude of the narrative also sticks with me; I've turned back to this book more than once to study the way she writes. 

Mary Roberts Rinehart, When a Man Marries

This charming, madcap vintage mystery was written in 1911 but reads easily still.  Rich celebutantes, a quarantine, a public/secret divorce, and two lovers who hate/love each other at first sight, this book could be cliched until one remembers its original pub date; and then, it feels fresh and funny and clever.  Perfect for those who like a good cozy but want a different setting, this 'mystery' is has a fabu sense of place and a lot of sass.


Julie K. Rose, Oleanna

This historical novel set in early 20th century Norway hit all the right notes for me.  Reminding me of Willa Cather and Sigrid Undset, Rose's sparse, simple narrative style swept me away and I was charmed and moved by Oleanna.  While without a flashy plot, the simple evocation of Norwegian life -- both modern and old-fashioned -- and the pain and loss of ordinary individuals was delightfully articulated.  I miss Oleanna and the world Rose evoked. 

Comments

  1. OH YEAH! I had forgotten about The Forbidden being in my TBR Pile of Doom -- I mean fun..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is wicked depressing, but SO.GOOD. Worth keeping on TBR!

      Delete
  2. Yikes, I haven't read a single one of those books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I recall correctly, you've said hist fic is not your thing, and if that is true, I'm not surprised -- BUT -- these are some good ones to use to dip your toe into the genre!!

      Delete
  3. I also loved The Raven's Heart, and it was one of my favorites too. I read I am Forbidden as well, and thought that one was excellent as well. As for the others, well, I will have to make more time for them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These books all really clung to me -- I still can't shut up about them -- and as I told Julie Rose in a tweet, I'm ready to reread all of them!

      Delete
  4. I'm so glad that Cascade made your list. I LOVED that book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wasn't it marvelous?! I still can't shake it -- it blew my mind.

      Delete
  5. I'm a little surprised how many of these books on your list that I don't remember hearing about. Makes me feel ashamed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm surprised more of them didn't make a bigger splash -- I found them to be really stellar novels on their own, and wonderful genre setters.

      Delete
  6. Sadly, the only one of these I have read is The Raven's Heart - which absolutely deserves to be here. I wish that book had more hype and attention - it really deserves it!

    Of the rest, I want to read them all! Mistress of Mourning is high on my list, as is The Uninvited Guests.

    Great picks Audra!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jessie, I am so with you on The Raven's Heart -- just loved everything about it and it needs to get some hot love!

      Can't wait to see what you think of The Uninvited Guests -- I want you to be in the loving it camp!

      Delete
  7. I'm reading The Raven's Heart now, and it's very good. Cascade and Oleanna were also fabulous. Although I haven't read Gillespie and I yet, Harris's first book The Observations is very witty and inventive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have The Observations on hand, to read someday. Soon, I hope....

      Delete
  8. I definitely have The Uninvited Guests on my TBR list. I just don't KNOW about historical fiction. I tend to go with stuff set in the period it's written. So Dickens, and then...that lady who wrote Gone Girl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Obviously, I luuuuuurve hist fic and therefor have no emotional distance, so it is objective truth when I say HIST FIC IS AMAZING.

      Thrillers like Gone Girl are too thriller-y for my tastes, I've learned -- Jennifer McMahon nearly killed me two years ago!

      Delete
  9. I've only read Cascade, but you've gotten me to put a couple more on my tbr list... Also, I'm pretty sure I need to read Gillespie & I, if only to know the twist. *is curious*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which ones?! Also, Gillespie & I is uh-mah-zing and needs to get more love, stat.

      Delete
  10. I know of quite a few of those and am not surprised you liked them so much. I loved The Raven's Heart, such a good book. Both The Uninvited Guests and Cascade are on my TBR pile and I wouldn't mind reading Oleanna, either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As with Jessie, I am so curious to hear your thoughts on The Uninvited Guests. I hope you love it -- so many seem to hate it! And Cascade and Oleanna -- oh, such love for them -- wonderful heroines, sense of place, firm grasp of a specific era -- and writing styles I'd love to emulate.

      Delete
  11. I haven't read any on your list, but you make them all sound irresistible. I definitely need to read Cascade because of the Massachusetts setting, and I have been intrigued by The Uninvited Guests for a while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laurie, Cascade could almost be a love letter to Massachusetts -- it so captured the type of people Massachusettians(?) are -- that hardy New England-ism -- plus her focus on the artist during wartime and propoganda versus an artistic vision -- I could go on and on.

      Delete
  12. I haven't read any of these and I only own one of them. Think I will be adding a few of these to my WL :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is a WL?! But do it, whatever it is! ;)

      Delete
  13. Loved Raven's Heart - tickled lavender it topped your top ten!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I sure wouldn't put CASCADE in my top-10 list.

    Although it's a well-written romance that does not depend on descriptions of sexual gymnastics, I wanted again and again to skip through paragraphs and pages. A couple times I even considered giving up on the book entirely. That is because O'Hara makes the common mistake of what I call "too much rumination." The main character, Dez, thinks, at length, too much. CASCADE wanders too often with excessive narration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, see, that rumination thing totally worked for me -- I adored every page of it. For me, it made Dez's choices and behaviors more...understandable...or at least, I could understand her rationale, even if I disagreed. I was so taken with O'Hara's writing style -- I still think about it!

      Delete
  15. I read many books in 2012, and most weren't what I consider good. Of the good ones, some had been written before 2012. The good books published in 2012:

    The Conviction by Dugoni, Robert
    Defending Jacob by Landay, William
    Gone Girl by Flynn, Gillian
    Broken Harbor by French, Tana
    Toby's Room by Barker, Pat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have Broken Harbor at home and I'm super eager for it -- I love/hate thrillers like that!

      Delete
  16. The only one I've read from your list is the Sadie Jones book and I did.not.like.it.

    Interesting list though. Historical Fiction is not my fave genre but surprisingly, I am reading The Painted Girls right now and loving it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ti -- I know, folks are so divided on Sadie Jones' book but I just adored it! Envious you've got The Painted Girls -- I want that one so bad!

      Delete
  17. How have I not tackled any of the books on your awesome list?! Cascade's cover absolutely haunts me; I love it. Off to add these to the ol' wishlist!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Many thanks for including Fires of London.
    Janice Law

    ReplyDelete
  19. I loved The Raven's Heart and Oleanna too! I will be on a blog tour for Cascade's paperback release and I am sooooo excited!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm totally with you on I Am Forbidden and Gillespie. I've been meaning to read Our Man in the Dark forever (I think I even pre-ordered it for my Kindle and haven't made time.) Great list! I've been craving historical fiction and mysteries lately.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Glad to see I Am Forbidden on your list. It didn't make my final list, but it certainly was on the list of contenders.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

Winter 2017 Bloggiesta To Do Post

Book and Bookish Presents I Think You Should Get: Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Midweek reads: cold temps, cozy home