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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Some of My New Favorite Books

I haven't had much time for reading this month, (colossal understatement: NO time whatsoever), what with two looming writing deadlines and a grant proposal that needs to be written (not to mention jury duty and other torture fun stuff). So I thought I'd dedicate this post to books I read last year, when I apparently had time to read. (And yanno, sleep and eat).

Best Ancient Historical Fiction

Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn
I love anything by Kate Quinn and enjoyed her latest romp through Rome with ex-gladiator Vix and spoiled Sabina. One of my favorite things about Quinn's novels is that I often end up rather attached to the secondary characters--everyone is terribly flawed and occasionally hilarious. This is one of those tear-through-the-pages novels full of non-stop action and drama!

Best "Modern" Historical Fiction

Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck
 *whispers* I hate Ernest Hemingway's books. Okay, maybe that's not true as I've only ever read Old Man and the Sea, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather be stuck on that fishing boat with Santiago than ever have to read that book again. However...

I apparently love reading about Ernest Hemingway. While I doubt I would have liked the man in the flesh, he's a pretty phenomenal character to read about, and Robuck brings him to life in this novel. 

Favorite Historical Saga

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

(Yes, I'm totally cheating with the categories so I can list multiple historical novels, but it's my list. I can do whatever I want.) This book about four very different women during the Masada seige during ancient Roman is simply stunning. This is not the kind of rip-through-the-pages novel waiting to be devoured in a couple nights, but one you savor for as long as possible. (Part of that also might be because it's like reading about Titanic: you know tragedy is on the horizon). 

Favorite Non-Fiction

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert Massie

This biography kept the pace of a novel and made me want to both cheer and slap Catherine several times. A sort-of Russian Cleopatra, I think Catherine the Great is better known for her many lovers than she is for the coup in which she swiped the throne from her (incompetent) husband (who liked to play with dolls). She was also pen pals with Voltaire which brings me to my next category...

Best Really Old Novel

Candide by Voltaire

I've told you all before that I love Voltaire because he can still make me laugh even though he's been moldering in his grave for over 200 years. And seriously, Candide has it all: fair maidens turned to harpies, a trip to Eldorado (where women have *relations* with monkeys), shipwrecks & volcanoes AND several characters who seriously refuse to die. It's like watching Days of Our Lives (is that even still on?), but during the Enlightenment. 

So those are some of the best of the best. Now let's hope things calm down soon--my TBR pile is probably taller than my daughter right now!