I regularly have two reading resolutions for every new year: read more adult fiction (and ideally, outside of my historical fiction comfort zone) and catch up on books that I have missed in previous years. And like most resolutions, my success was mixed, at best. I read some outstanding adult fiction--but, if you noticed, all my favorite adult fiction reads were historical fiction. Better luck this year. My favorite pre-2012 reads are even more embarrassingly similar:
Bronze: The Winter Palace (my review)
Normally, I shy away from historical fiction involving royalty. I really prefer non-royal biographical fiction or historical fiction featuring everyday people experiencing extraordinary times. Russian history, on the other hand, is not often found in historical fiction (other than the Revolution), and I'm immediately drawn to fiction set in foreign countries. I was enthralled with The Winter Palace (2011 publication); historical fiction fans that are drawn to sweeping epics should definitely read this extravagant novel. Catherine's early years at court are told through the perspective of her Polish maid; murder, mayhem, and scandal are abundant. Stachniak is working on a companion novel, Empire of the Night, which will be told through Catherine's perspective.
Silver: Cool, Calm, and Contentious
Merrill Markoe has had a lengthy and award-winning career in writing for both television and print, but this collection of essays, published in 2011, was my first introduction to her writing. If you're a fan of David Sedaris, you should give her a try. Like Sedaris, Markoe has an astonishing wit when describing the surreal situations in which she finds herself, but she has a greater humanity, depth, and vulnerability in her more personal essays.
Gold: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (my review)
Yes, 2/3 of my list involves Catherine the Great. Can't help it. Unlike the previous two authors, I was no stranger to Massie's work when I (finally) finished his remarkable biography of this extraordinary woman. My grandparents' copy of Nicholas and Alexandra was one of the first non-children's biographies that I read (some time in middle school), and I've read several of his subsequent Russian histories. Massie is a historian who writes like a novelist; although you will have to dedicate significant time to reading it, history/biography buffs will relish this incredible read.
It's time to get down to the nitty gritty and reveal my children's/YA favorites of 2012 (before the Caldecotts and Newberys are announced--yikes!). All will be revealed in my next post.