Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo. All around the country, people are finishing up 50,000 words of writing and then celebrating with their NaNoWriMo friends. I think maybe one of my friends will make it: she’s still got a few thousand words to go, but she’s taken the day off work to write and she’s motivated. I came nowhere close, of course.

Instead I read. This month’s book list, in reverse order as best I remember:

Nora Roberts’ books used to be an auto-buy for me, each a reliable three hours of light entertainment. They were rarely memorable — I could re-read one a year later and still enjoy it, because so little of it had stuck with me, but I did enjoy the reading. Somewhere in the last few years the books started feeling bland so I largely stopped, but this one was on sale on Amazon, so I gave it a try. And I enjoyed it — it was light entertainment, pure popcorn, but the ranch in Montana was an interesting place to hang out for a few hours.

Total impulse buy. I enjoyed one of his previous books (Blue Like Jazz) and this showed up in some book ad in my email. I started reading the Look Inside and was interested enough to keep going. I think it’s really written for a male audience and I’m not sure I got much out of it — Brene Brown on vulnerability covered this ground in a far more interesting and entertaining way, I think — but I didn’t regret the time spent.

I’ve bought books by Penny Reid when they were on sale or free via BookBub ads. She writes entertaining, humorous romance. I’ve absolutely hated a couple of them. She wrote one with a married couple where I was seriously rooting for the heroine to dump the hero — I think it’s the only romance I can remember where the only happy ending I could envision was the one where the hero died. Badly. Miserably. In flames. Alas, it did not end that way.

But I still read it all the way through, which made it better than a vast number of the cheap or free books that I quit reading, label DNF, and hope never to look at again. This one was pretty solid: I’d give it a B, and while I did not enjoy all aspects of it, it was good enough that I considered reading others.

Loved this book! Bought it via a Bookbub ad (I think) and gobbled it down in about six hours of steady reading. It was the kind of book where every interruption was annoying and I was so interested that every spare minute I pulled up my phone to read again. It’s about disasters, how we function in them, what happens to our brains, why some people are better at coping with disaster then others. The stories were fascinating, but so was the science.

Random factoid: On 9/11, women were almost twice as likely to get injured while evacuating. “Was it a question of strength? Confidence? Fear? No, says lead investigator Robyn Gershon. ‘It was the shoes.'”

High heels and disasters do not mix well.

J.D. Robb = Nora Roberts, and I have the same reaction. Not willing to buy at full price. I’ll wait through the library’s interminable hold list (up to six months, easily) and borrow, or find them at a thrift store or garage sale when they’re older. But this one was on sale for $3.99, which is just about the right price for me. I read it, I enjoyed it, the total implausibility bothered me a little, but mostly it’s about characters who are fun to spend time with.

Fairly sure this must have been free at some point for it to have been on my Kindle. I include it because I did read it. I won’t be reading the sequels, though.

I have adored some books by Sarina Bowen. Truly loved them, so much so that I gave them five star reviews on Amazon. Her sex scenes are too graphic for my taste but her characterizations are terrific. She’s the kind of author who can write a drug addict hero, fresh out of jail, and make you actually root for him, which is an amazing accomplishment.

This book, however, is one that I knew I wouldn’t like, and I was right. I was really glad that the library had it and I got to read it, though. I’m sure at some point, when I desperately wanted something to read, I would have bought it and then I would have been really annoyed. As it was, I read it, wincing and grimacing and wishing it was different.

I did finish it, though, and the author remains on my “will seriously consider buying books by” list, which is where most of my favorite authors live. I only have a very few who make it onto the “auto-buy” list.

And Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my very few auto-buys. I don’t even read the blurbs on her books, I just buy them, because I know that I will want to reread them. The Penric series of novellas aren’t ones that I love, but they’re interesting and I will keep reading them as long as she keeps writing them, I suspect.

I made a major, major mistake with this book. I had it and the other books in the same series on hold at the library and when this one (#6 in the series) came in, I decided that I could read the series out of order. Bad idea! Don’t do that!

But do read the series if you get a chance, because it is really worth reading. Fun, smart, fantasy-mysteries, sort of a combination of Harry Potter and a police-procedural in a multi-cultural modern London. Terrific books. Read them, but read the series in order.

I like Pratchett, but this book took a long time to grow on me. By the end, though, it was a warm, fuzzy, Christmas pleasure. Library book, but I can imagine re-reading.

Another of the Peter Grant/Rivers of London fantasy-mystery series.

I am not sure whether to include this book because I honestly don’t remember whether I finished it. I got it from the library, and it’s really early Pratchett, published originally in 1983, and… well, it shows. Times change, writers get better, and unless you’re madly in love with Discworld, start with the later books and skip this one.

Another of the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series. The fact that the series is showing up three times in this list should tell you how much I like it!

I came very close to spending $12 on this book because I wanted to read it so badly, but I found it at the library, much to my delight. It would have been worth the $12, though, because it is really good. It reads like a classic, some combination of Anne of Green Gables and Ngaio Marsh. Not Marsh because it’s a mystery, but Marsh because it has that WWII English feel, the bombs dropping on London and the stiff upper lip, devastation but at the same time, survival.

I don’t want to spoil it, but I cried serious tears while reading it and yet finished with that happy book feeling, where you’ve gotten to spend the afternoon in a place where you still want to live for a while. I recommend it highly. And if there’s a sequel, I probably won’t hesitate to buy it, even if it does cost $12 or more.

Library book. YA, so I am not the target market. But I’m going to say that this is the single best book I’ve read all year. It’s the one that will most live in my memory, the one that thoroughly gripped me while reading and still has a hold on me weeks later. I wish I could add star graphics to this image, but I’ll just try a little emphasis to make sure it’s obvious how much I liked it!

My niece loves this book so I told her I would read it. I did not love this book. I don’t like worlds where girls are symbols before they are people. And my niece isn’t old enough for me to want to talk to her about rape culture but I found the boys’ reactions when the girl shows up to be so profoundly disturbing that it appalls me that we live in a world where that goes unnoticed. Or at least doesn’t prohibit it from becoming successful. Not sure I should really say I’ve read the book, either, because I started skimming pretty fast by the end.

This cover is a really different style for a Jayne Anne Krentz book but the content between the covers is just the same: a quick, straightforward, fun romance with elements of setting, food, and character that I enjoy. They’re sort of a female version of a Robert Parker novel — plain dialog, an uncomplicated and not overly dark mystery, a story that relies on friendship and family at its core.

My SIL was rolling her eyes over some of the writing — there’s a scene (I think in this one, possibly in one of the others) where the hero describes the color of the walls as saffron, which really does make him quite the sophisticated color connoisseur for a guy depicted as “all-male” in other places — but I’m not usually so inclined to quibble. I don’t generally buy full-price books by Krentz (or either of her two other pen names, Jayne Anne Castle and Amanda Quick) but I happily read them when they come my way, whether by library, garage sale, or hand-me-down.

Library book. I liked the cover and I’m willing to read kids’ books when they seem successful. I sort of view it as research, because maybe someday I’ll want to write one. I enjoyed this one, but I didn’t love it, probably wouldn’t bother to recommend it, even if I knew anyone of the right age to be the target audience.

I read the first book in this series a long time ago (and then re-read it in October). When I saw that the series had a lot more books, all of them available at the library, I thought I’d give it a try. But after two books, I’ve concluded that it’s not for me. Too violent, too bloody, too many vampires. Which, you know, is probably obvious from the fact that the heroine is a vampire killer. And if you like that kind of thing, it probably is a solid series: it’s quite readable. Just not to my particular taste.

Seanan McGuire is an award-winning fantasy author who I’ve heard a lot about. I tried the first book in her first series, the October Daye series, years ago and didn’t enjoy it — it was too dark for me. When I saw that the library had her InCryptid series, I decided to give them a try. I read five of the books in October, finishing with this one at the beginning of November. Interesting reads. Still a little dark for me, and they made me think a lot about how authors reveal ourselves in our work. But they’ve got good flow, interesting twists and entertaining world-building, so they’re certainly worth the read. I didn’t like them enough to try the other series again, and her science fiction (under the name Mira Grant) looks definitely darker than I want to read, but I liked them enough to read all six books in the series.

I thought this would be a quick post. Ha. I should have known better. Eons ago, back in fifth grade I think it was, my English teacher wrote on my report card that I didn’t read enough. My mother was appalled and called the school to ask what she was talking about. The teacher told her that I had only read two books all semester. My mother pointed out that I read all the time — between classes, walking in the hallways, during lunch — that my head was always in a book. But as far as the teacher was concerned, the only books that counted were the ones I wrote book reports on. As far as I was concerned, there was no way I was wasting my time writing book reports when I could be reading instead. It’s why I’m always sympathetic to people who don’t write book reviews and why I hate asking for them. But it was kind of fun to look back over what I read — enabled by the discovery of a history button in my library app — and be reminded of what my month was in books.