Well, another year of reading, but this year I didn’t read nearly as much as I usually do. In fact, I think this is a record low. I was pretty busy working on my own books, I guess, in the evening hours (when I’d normally read fiction). Instead of curling up on the couch to read, I was sitting in my desk chair in the den, writing or rewriting dialogue and settings. But it was still fun. (Writing fiction is as much fun as reading it, truly. You never know what your characters are going to do next.)
Also, as I look over my list of books I read this year, I apparently needed to learn a lot. I read six nonfiction books – on writing, agents, the Wild West (research for my short story) and on paying for college! (Yep, need that one.) But I did manage to get a handful of fiction in, many of which were comfort re-reads.
Here’s what was on my complete list, in order from January through December (favorites at the bottom):
- Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents (2009 Edition) — Huge. Intimidating. Took me a couple of months, but I finally looked through the entire thing with my little sticky notes and made a long list of possible agents. Then I gave them letter grades for how much they appealed to me (“C” through “A+”), and sorted the list in Excel. Whew! Now on to the next step in the agent search. …
- Lessons in French — Laura Kinsdale. My first fictional read of the new year! And I chose Laura Kinsdale’s new book, because she rarely disappoints. This one didn’t either. It was very cute. Not her usual deep, disturbed hero, but good nonetheless. This was a lighter romp, which I was totally in the mood for. Some clever, funny dialogue between Trevelyan and Callie. The hero Trev is very charming. Made me smile.
- When Angels Fall (manuscript) — Patti Lynn. My critique partner’s book! It was great! Patti wrote a deep historical about Nicholas and Niles — twins, the first-born of which is set to inherit the St. Aubyn home. But the second-born one attempts to murder the first when they are boys, and — although he’s not successful — fourteen years pass before the first-born comes back to seek his revenge. And now he’s got a lot more to be angry about. … Can’t wait for Patti to publish this!
- The Secret Pearl — Mary Balogh. I’d had this on my nightstand for quite some time, a lend from my mom, who had been wanting me to read Mary Balogh. So after finishing Patti’s ms, then “Lessons in French” late one night, I picked this one up. It was really cute. I was a little annoyed that the title seemed to have nothing to do with the story, but other than that, I really liked the book. I would definitely read another Mary Balogh. If you have favorites to recommend, I’m all ears!
- The Cinderella Deal — Jenny Crusie. I’m a huge Crusie fan, so as soon as I saw this in the book store, I snatched it up. It’s actually one of her first books (I think her first? or second?), so this is a re-release. I love seeing my favorite authors’ early works — you can really see how they grew and improved.Same with Crusie. I liked this story, but it’s missing something that her later books had — can’t quite place my finger on it. Maybe some of the “extra” quirkiness that her later characters had. But it was fun, and a quick, light read.
- Writing the Breakout Novel (nonfiction) — Donald Maass. Excellent, excellent, excellent writerly advice!
- Dream a Little Dream — Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This is a re-read for me, but I always go back to SEP to see how things are done well. … Love this story of Gabe and Rachel.
- Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West (nonfiction) — Anne Seagraves. Another interesting reference book that covers madams, the various levels of “houses,” how much money prostitutes made, some of the rough towns like Dodge and Bodie, and even some famous “wild” women like Calamity Jane and Josephine Marcus (Wyatt Earp’s eventual wife). Great reference for historicals if you’re writing in that era.
- The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West (1840 -1900) (nonfiction) — by Candy Moulton. Great reference for everything from that era, from professions and food storage, to clothing and furniture. It was a tad dry (definitely a reference book!), but so packed with info that I read it cover to cover anyway. Just reading about how refrigeration came into being, for instance, or how after 1865 condensed milk was available in cans was interesting to me. … huh. …
- Ain’t She Sweet — Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Another SEP re-read for me, but I always go back to her to see how contemporaries are done well. … Love Colin and Sugar Beth!
- Lady Be Good — Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Another SEP re-read. It’s a “comfort read” when I want something I KNOW is good. This is my all-time favorite of hers — Kenny Traveler might be my favorite hero of all time because he cracks me up. I love a funny guy. I’ve read this one about five times.
- Match Me if You Can — Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Another SEP re-read. (I guess I need a few more “comfort reads.”) Gosh, I wish I thought of this plot: Modern matchmaker falls in love with the guy she’s matching. I love Heath, the sports agent “Python.” I always skim the end part about her family/brothers/etc., which I thought was too much, but love the rest.
- Maybe This Time — Jennifer Crusie. My first Kindle purchase!!! I love Jenny Crusie, but her recent books are wandering away from what I loved. This one was cute, but not a fave. I miss all the sizzling romantic tension she used to write between the H/H. In this one, the hero is missing for most of the book, while the heroine spends a lot of time with the children in the novel. Cute story, but not an awesome romance.
- Debt-Free U (nonfiction) — Zac Bissonnette. EXCELLENT advice if you’re trying to send a kid to college!
- Hooked (nonfiction) — Les Edgerton. I’ve been complaining that I don’t like the openings of either of my manuscripts, and I read on a blog somewhere that this book offers advice on how to write that first sentence and first page. I must say, it delivered. Great advice.
- The Shadow and the Star — Laura Kinsdale. My second Kindle purchase! This book is keeping me up at night, happily. I keep reading and reading and reading because I can’t wait to see what happens next. Samuel from Hawaii in the late 1870s is fascinating, and when he runs into Miss Etoile in England, they don’t know what to make of each other. Laura Kinsdale is at her finest here. I heard this was one of her best books, so I had to go to her backlist and find out for myself. (I’ll say so far I agree, though I loved Flowers from the Storm as well.)
Started in 2010, but never finished:
Men to Match My Mountains (nonfiction) — Irving Stone. I’m STILL trudging my way through this, and it’s a definite trudge. (It’s well paced for a history book, but for someone used to reading novels, it’s pretty slow.) But I’ve been meaning to read this book for about 10 years, and this year seemed like a good time, while I was looking for inspiration for wild-west characters and enjoyed a summer trip to the Sierra Nevadas (where much of this historical novel takes place). My mom and my husband have each read this book about two or three times, and tell me it’s one of their all-time favorites. So onward I trudge. …
Outliers (nonfiction) — Malcolm Gladwell. About 3/4 of the way through this one: Had enough conversations with my brother-in-law about this book that he brought it for me to borrow. Very interesting. The concept that it takes anyone 10,000 hours to achieve greatness (and he “proves” it through The Beatles, Bill Gates and others) is pretty compelling. I also thought it was interesting about pro sports teams having so many top players born in the same months. (The explanation? That month is the cutoff for that sport, so the oldest/biggest kids make the best players on the team.)
As for favorites, hmmm …
I guess The Shadow and the Star, Lady Be Good, and Match Me if You Can (Kinsdale, SE Phillips, SE Phillips).
And here’s what I’m reading now. (Lisa Kleypas fans, come talk to me!)
What about you? What were your favorite books of 2010?