Friday, January 17, 2014

Favorite Books of 2013

Illness prevented my annual summing up of favorite books before the onslaught of 2014, so here we are, better late than never.

The following are my favorites of the year 2013, listed as usual in no particular order (except for the first title). There is a nice combo, I think, of old and new though I've left off the re-reads since the obvious implication must be that I wouldn't re-read a book I didn't love. Hell, all the books on my original list are viewed with much affection. I rarely finish a book I don't like.


1) Book of the year - for me, at any rate: CATHERINE THE GREAT Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. What a woman. What a fabulous life. What historical richness. What superb writing. If you haven't read it - what are you waiting for?


2) COTILLION (1953) by Georgette Heyer
Such a funny, funny book. Such absurd plot shenanigans, such enjoyable Regency-style dialogue, such delightful characters. I read this for the first time in 2013 in book form and was utterly and completely charmed. I've since purchased it on audio as well. I mean, I simply had to. Heyer was/is a treasure.


3) THE MAURITIUS COMMAND by Patrick O'Brian. Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, naval surgeon and spy, Stephan Maturin are on the high seas looking for adventure and whatever comes their way. I love these books and am currently reading my way (slowly but surely) through all 21 of what I can only term, an incredibly brilliant series. I know next to nothing about ships and sea-faring, 19th century or otherwise, but I'm mostly able to pick up the gist of things. Cover art: Geoff Hunt


4) DESOLATION ISLAND by Patrick O'Brian. See above. Cover art: Geoff Hunt


5) THE FORTUNE OF WAR by Patrick O'Brian. See above. Cover art: Geoff Hunt


6) EVENING IN THE PALACE OF REASON Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment by James R. Gaines. 'Set at the tipping point between the ancient world and the modern', this is a non-fiction account of the lives of two brilliant men whose brief meeting in 1757 signaled a pivotal moment in history where 'belief collided with the cold certainty of reason'. An easily accessible and very engagingly told tale.


7) CIRCLE OF SHADOWS by Imogene Robertson
An anguished request for help from her newly married younger sister, sends intrepid sleuth Harriet Westerman and her friend, anatomist Gabriel Crowther to the Duchy of Mahlsberg in 1784 in this, the fourth in Robertson's most excellent Westerman and Crowther series of books. Historical mysteries just don't come any better than this.


8) ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer (1949)
Hard to believe it took me so long to get to this oh-so-scrumptious book. I loved the engaging plot which hinges on the spreading of a certain white lie among the gullible 'haute ton' of Regency London. Loved the main character, Arabella, who is adorably charming but not too, and I most especially loved the hero, Mr. Beaumaris, whom I'd choose over Mr. Darcy any day.


9) CORPSE DIPLOMATIQUE by Delano Ames (1950)
Join insouciant sleuths Jane and Dagobert Brown on the Riviera. Smile while they juggle holiday /murder solving time in between good-natured kibbitzing. Smile while Dagobert avoids, yet again, the subject of job-hunting. Smile as he urges Jane to begin writing her latest novel based on his exploits - after all, they must have income from somewhere.


10) BLOOD OF TYRANTS by Naomi Novik
The next to the last in Novik's dazzling re-telling of the Napoleonic wars in an alternate historical setting - Europe in the 18th century except that this time out the armies all have their own flying dragon corps. A series brilliantly conceived and executed by one of the most imaginative writers around.

I've used pictures here because I have a hard time talking about favorite books without showing the covers.

22 comments:

  1. A greta looking collecton, not one of which i have read though of course I have heard about them from you! Hope to read a few of these soon though - thanks Yvette.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're welcome, Sergio. Take a chance. Pick one. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ever since I saw the movie THE MASTER AND THE COMMANDER I've wanted to read at least one of Patrick O'Brien's sea novels. I read an article once where they were described as "Jane Austen on board ship" meaning the writer of the essay was drawing comparision to the exploration of the life of menat sea with the novel of manners. The movie did a good job of highlighting that aspect. If the books go into all the detail of male relationships in the navy as opposed to naval battles and war I think I'd like them a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You will love these books, John. Begin at the very beginning as I have. I also loved the movie - it's one of my all time favorites. The books do detail relationships but also have rip-roaring battle scenes (as they must) and adventures galore. But at the center of the books is the deep friendship between Aubrey and Maturin. These books are so damn wonderful I have a hard time curbing my enthusiasm.

      Delete
  4. Catherine the Great is my next book to read!!! Thanks :) Judy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Judy. I hope you enjoy it.

      Delete
  5. I've wanted to read Catherine the Great. Forgot. I will now because of your mention of it. I've read the O'brian books. Been reading him for years.
    Nice to see they're on your favorite list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love the O'Brian books, Andy. I put off reading them for a while thinking I wouldn't like them for whatever reason - silly me.

      Delete
  6. I love the O'Brien books but have only read two of them. They're some of the books I'm sort of saving for - what am I waiting for?!

    I finally found one Delano Ames book, For Old Crime's Sake, at The Book Trader in Philadelphia, my local used book store. I started reading it late last night, so I'm not very far into it. But, based on your and Katrina's recommendations, I'm looking forward to a pleasant weekend with Dagobert and Jane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes indeed, what ARE you waiting for, Joan? I think I began reading them at just the right time.
      Please let me know how you get on with Dagobert and Jane. :)

      Delete
  7. Hi, Yvette,

    I listened to Robert Massie when he was interviewed last year on NPR, and his oral account of Catherine's life was fascinating. I have yet to get the book, but it's on my list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My daughter gave it to me last Christmas, Mark and I'd put off reading it until I was in a non-fiction sort of mood. :) But once I began reading, I kept thinking - could all this really have happened? It's non-fiction that reads like fiction. Amazing stuff. You'll love it.

      Delete
  8. Great list, Yvette! I would not have even given reading O'Brien's books a thought, maybe I will have to change that attitude!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Peggy Ann. If you love really terrific story-telling and writing of a certain 19th century sort, you'll love O'Brian's work. The stories are - very basically - about the bonds of friendship, male comradery and the thrill and hardships of sea faring adventure. The brilliance is in the writing and plotting for which, I think, Patrick O'Brian has no equal.

      Delete
  9. A very nice list and varied too. I usually don't read non-fiction, and when I do it is usually related to World War II, but the Catherine the Great book sounds good, and I am glad to see your recommendation. I hope to start the series by Imogen Robertson this year, as my husband just passed on the first two books to me. And I am sure I have read Delano Ames but don't know which ones I read... I remember nothing about them. But I may start with the first Jane and Dagobert book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tracy. I too love non-fiction related to WWII. I have plenty of my bookshelves. Got a couple of good ones coming up this year. Have you read IS PARIS BURNING? Fabulous!

      In truth, Tracy, the first Jane and Dagobert book is not as wonderful as the ones that came after, you might keep that in mind as you begin - again. :)

      This sort of memory lapse happens to me all the time. For instance: I know I read every John Dickson Carr book when I was a teenager - but can remember only one. GAK!

      Delete
  10. Yvette, I'm already fascinated by "Catherine the Great" and hope to read it along with some of O'Brian's seafaring books. There's something enchanting about books on the seas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I so agree with you Prashant about 'the something enchanting'. Though I must admit that Patrick O'Brian's books are the first series of seafaring books I've read. Thank goodness I began with the best.

      Catherine the Great was a fascinating person. I admit I knew very little about her when I began reading the book. But that didn't stop me devouring the book in great gulps. :)

      Delete
  11. I wish we were "real" friends. I bet we could talk for hours about your reading life. Do you have some advice on how to break into the Heyer books? I've read a couple, but is there a preferred order or how do I begin a comprehensive read of her work? I love Catherine the Great. I am definitely going in search of that book too. Thanks for this blog. I love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, thanks, Belle. That's so nice of you. I wish we were too. But we kind of are, here on the internet. Think of it as a club we belong to. :)

      With Georgette Heyer (and I'm so glad you've decided to read her books) it all depends on what mood you happen to be in. My favorites are her Regency Romantic Romps (those are the funny ones), but I've also read two of her books set in Georgian times (18th century) and enjoyed those as well. Of course I happened to pick two of the funniest. Then there are Heyer's more serious books which, I admit, I'm not too fond of. I miss all the laughter (my own).
      Then there are her mysteries set in 'modern' times - the thirties. Those are as good as anything Agatha Christie ever wrote, though not always as engaging.
      I'm re-reading a few of those right now even as we speak.

      I'll post a list tomorrow on my favorite Heyer books, Belle and add to the general confusion. Ha. When it comes to Georgette Heyer, it truly is an embarrassment of riches.

      Delete
  12. I'm now hoping to find Catherine the Great at my library, Yvette! I need a really good book to get lost in :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh this is definitely that kind of book, Pat. What an amazing life. I'm sure you'll soon find yourself in 18th century Russia.

      Delete

Your comment will appear after I take a look.