Books Read in November and December

Books Read in November and December

A Girl Reading by Berndt Abraham Godenhjelm


I had a hernia repair surgery mid-month and went on a Georgette Heyer kick, both before and after. Lighthearted romances were definitely the order of the day. Six of them, mostly checked out from the library via Overdrive, so the selection was based on what I remembered having enjoyed in the past and what was currently available. I also read a few fantasy novels. And I finally finished Rosemary Sutcliff’s memoir. So… not much heavy or requiring attention and brainpower.

One thought about Georgette Heyer… I recently compared Meriol Trevor’s romances to Heyer’s. On reflection and rereading, I have come to prefer Trevor. Heyer is fun, but Trevor has something… more there.

1. Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Arabella is the eldest daughter of a clergyman who isn’t exactly poor, but is not wealthy and who has a lot of daughters to marry off. He carriage breaks down, she takes refuge at the home of a rich dilettante where she impulsively pretends to be a rich heiress. Although he sees right through her he decides to have fun and pretend she really is wealthy. A fun romp, exactly what I was looking for.

2. A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

I really thought I’d read this one, but I had it confused with A Convenient Marriage. In fact I hadn’t read this one before. One of my favorite romance plots is the one where the protagonists get married for some practical reason and then fall in love. In this variant a viscount, wounded veteran of the Napoleonic war, reluctantly enters a marriage of convenience with a wealthy commoner’s daughter in order to save his family’s estate. Originally he thinks he’s still in love with his old flame, Julia, but he comes to realize she’s actually rather shallow and petty and he is finally content with Jenny, who is down to earth and actually suits him much better. I liked this take on the plot and it was one of my favorite Heyers that I read this month.

3. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Still one of my favorite Heyer novels. I really just like Sophy, enjoying her madcap adventures.

4. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

I vaguely thought I’d read the Earthsea books, but if I did I have no memory of them. But I rather think now that I never did. I enjoyed this first book of the series. It wasn’t really what I was expecting. It’s an adventure novel but also a coming of age novel. Ged’s primary adversary is himself, his own pride and foolhardiness. The pacing is rather slow and dreamy and I was sort of in the mood for something more action-packed, but it was an enjoyable read.

5. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

I remember loving this one in college but it hasn’t worn well. Set in the Georgian rather than the Regency period and primarily in France. An English nobleman living in France who prides himself on his wicked ways finds himself with a young girl as his ward, she becomes a pawn in a plot to foil his greatest enemy and they predictably fall in love.  I found myself impatient with the bad-boy Byronic romantic hero and the fiery redheaded girl and had to push myself to actually finish the book.

6. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

A vampire novel or sorts. Fabulous worldbuilding, a sort of post-apocalyptic world whose past is never fully explained but where there are magical creatures and people who are wizards.  And a most unlikely protagonist, a baker who wants nothing to do with magic, but who finds herself caught up with vampires nevertheless. On the whole I really enjoyed it, though I thought it could have done without the few scenes in which the heroine exercises her libido. I suppose one should expect sex in a vampire novel, but I’d have preferred to skip it.

7. The King of the Castle by Meriol Trevor

A fairy tale about a boy sick in bed who gets himself into a picture he’s been looking at. He meets a shepherd who believes he’s the son of the High King over the sea, but he can’t convince the Princess of the Castle nor the four princes of the realms that he is the rightful king. A fun adventure story that feels a little like a fable, allegory or morality tale, but manages not to be too preachy. 

8. Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

Lord Sherringham marries orphan nobody Hero Wantage after he is refused by the Incomparable Isabella. Hero is just out of the schoolroom and has no idea how to behave in society. Sherry thinks he can keep living as he did before marriage, but it turns out she needs him and their marriage is almost a disaster until he stops being selfish and changes his life. Another of the fall in love after the wedding plots and also another of the books I enjoyed more. Not quite as good at Civil Contract, but I did like it.

9. The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Horatia Winwood, the youngest of three sisters, boldly offers herself in marriage to Lord Rule — in place of her oldest sister Elizabeth who is  in love with someone else. Neither Horatia nor Winwood loves the other… and she gets into scrapes, but is generally pretty good at taking care of herself. I didn’t feel this one as much, though. Something about Winwood just left me flat. I did rather like Horatia.

10. Blue Remembered Hills by Rosemary Sutcliff

I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir of Sutcliff’s childhood and young adulthood. She had rather a hard time of it as an invalid and yet she’s never self-pitying and tends to be rather matter of fact about her disability and time spent in the hospital. At the same time one very much suspects Sutcliff would have been happier had she been born at a later time. I feel like I understand where some of her novels come from better now. And I very much liked spending time getting to know her.


Emma by Jane Austen

I thought I’d like to re-read Emma while recuperating, but I only got about a chapter in and decided that I was not at all in the mood to spend time with my least-favorite Austen heroine. I had no patience for Emma and her meddling. So I abandoned the book and went on to other things. Emma is not a restful heroine and requires much more fortitude than I have when I’m recuperating.

The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Recommended to me by a couple of friends. I got halfway through and then my library loan was up and it disappeared from my Kindle. I might give it another try on the basis of the strong recommendations, but I didn’t really love the first half and it’ll have to have a pretty good turn to reconcile me to any of the characters.


1. The River and the Source by Margaret Ogala

I wrote a longer review here; but, briefly, this was one of my favorite books of the year.

2. Post Captain by Patrick O’Brien

I felt an urge to re-read some O’Brien. I really love these characters and this world, but I don’t think I’m in the mood to re-read the series. This was just enough to convince me that these books might be better suited for lazy summer. I’m too impatient or … something. Maybe it’s just 2020 end of year blahs. There were parts I very much liked — like Jack and Stephen journeying across France and Spain with Jack dressed up in a bearskin!– but I also felt there were places where it dragged.

3. Unstable Felicity by Cat Hodge

I read an earlier draft of this holiday novella when the first draft was originally serialized online as it was written and very much enjoyed reading the revised final story. It’s a delightful mashup of King Lear and Hallmark holiday movie.

4. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett’s humorous Discworld-fantasy take on MacBeth and Hamlet. A murdered king, a usurper, three witches, a vengeful ghost, traveling players, a fool, a cat, Death, and an heir in disguise and revenge. I love the Witches series: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat are such fun characters.

5. Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

Part of the Chrestomanci series, which the four older kids are currently reading. I hadn’t read this one before and it’s a fun adventure, though I thought the ending a little flat. The Chrestomanci books take place in a universe of connected alternate worlds– in which some people with magic can travel between worlds. Chrestomanci is a title rather than a specific person, he’s a nine-lived enchanter whose job it is to be a magical policeman not only of his own world but of all the worlds, preventing evil magicians from abusing their magical powers. In Witch Week we visit a world in which witches are hunted down and killed. At a boarding school there is a large number of witches among the student body who, with the help of Chrestomanci, have to figure out what is wrong with their world.

6. The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones

Another of the Chrestomanci books that I had not previously read. Two feuding magical families, the Pinhoes and the Farleighs are eager to avoid notice by Chrestomanci, which is tricky because they live within ten miles of the Castle where Chrestomanci and his family and team of magical assistants live. Marianne Pinhoe and her cousin Tom help Chrestomanci and Cat Chance to untangle a generations-old mess.

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