Recommended Reading: November, 2009

On Writing Recommended Reading

I spent most of November reading Lisa Kleypas books (see below).  I didn’t list most of them. While I enjoyed them, I felt I should only include the ones that really blew me away.  I think I read eight to ten of her novels, though, as well as some really dry research books.  I didn’t have a lot of time for short fiction and what I did read was curiously flat. I read an entire anthology of mystery fiction that had adequate stories—no bad ones and no good ones.  I kept reading, thinking someone had to write a superb story, but no one did.  It was one of the odder reading experiences I’ve ever had.

So this short list doesn’t really reflect how much I read in November.  But it does show you what I enjoyed.

November, 2009

Canellos, Peter S., The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, Kindle Edition, 2009.  I started reading this when Kennedy died, and couldn’t put it down.  (I’d’ve been done sooner except that I only read it outside of the house, on the Kindle).  I knew the history of the Kennedy family, of course, but had never read anything specifically about Ted.  Fascinating, complex human being.  The book is a bit thin in places like most biographies that cover long-lived people.  But it covers all the important stuff.  Worth reading, no matter what your political persuasion.

Ellison, Harlan, “How Interesting: A Tiny Man,” Realms of Fantasy, February, 2010.  It’s an event whenever Harlan publishes a short story. Which is both good and bad.  It’s good, because Harlan’s stories are spectacular.  It’s sad because for the past decade or so, there simply have not been enough of them.

This is a marvelous piece, written with great verve and passion. Harlan takes on society (and Anne Coulter) with devastating results.  The story’s short, but memorable.  Worth every single moment of your time.

Kleypas, Lisa, The Devil in Winter, Avon 2006.  I bought this book when it came out, but I didn’t read it.  In fact, I didn’t read a lot of historical romance for a few years, partly because I was being cranky.  But I grabbed a Kleypas novel at the store (see below) and went on a Kleypas binge, reading all that I had but hadn’t read, and buying out our local used bookstore, as well as few volumes on Kindle.  In fact, I could’ve named November Lisa Kleypas month.

The Devil in Winter is part of her Wallflowers’ books, about a group of women in Regency England who were wallflowers at the various social gatherings.  Of course, they all end up happily married at the end of each book.

While most in the series are good, The Devil in Winter is wonderful.  It hits on one of those stories that I love—the unredeemable protagonist who must be redeemed.  Kleypas manages this storyline, a staple of romance, as if no one had ever done it before.  I couldn’t put this novel down.  In fact, Dean had to take it away from me one night so that I would get some sleep.  An excellent romance novel.

Kleypas, Lisa, Tempt Me at Twilight, St. Martins Press, 2009. This is the book that started the binge for me.  I was waiting for Dean in the grocery store, picked up the book, read the back cover copy and got hooked.

The setting is unique—a London hotel in 1852.  The hero is the hotel owner, and the heroine an intellectual woman who babbles a bit too much. Throw in an escaped ferret, and you have a charming, charming romance novel.  Yes, there are other family members, two of whom had already had their romances by the time this story opens (neither of which is as interesting as this one), and another sister whom I really want to read about as she is the owner of that escaped ferret.

Several years ago now, Kleypas wrote one of my all-time favorite romances, Suddenly You. When she hits on all cylinders, she’s one of the best working.  As she is in Tempt Me at Twilight.

Silverberg, Robert, Other Spaces, Other Times: A Life Spent in the Future, Nonstop Press, 2009.  I spent much of the past year reading autobiographies of science fiction writers.  Bob’s is the most recent, and in some ways the most revealing and the most reticent.

Bob didn’t look back on his life. Instead, he compiled the autobiographical essays he wrote throughout his fifty-plus year (so far) career and put them in chronological order.  The result is fascinating.  Sometimes the essays cover current events. Sometimes they look back.  You can see his thinking on various aspects of the field, writing, genre, and life evolving as he grew older.

It’s revealing because of the honesty of the chronological essays. It’s reticent because it almost never talks about his personal life—his marriages, his parents.  Which was fine with me.  I was much more interested in the public Silverberg than the private one. (Some of that is me; I got very uncomfortable reading some of the private things in Frederik Pohl’s autobiography.  It’s all well and good to read about that stuff about someone you don’t know.  But when it’s someone you’ve known for years, it feels a bit like peeping in keyholes.)

I can’t praise this book enough. It’s one of the best I’ve read all year.  And it’s lovely, as well, with many of his book covers reprinted inside, as well as photos of friends and family.

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