I've read four terrific novels in a row. That never happens to me. Never.
Do you all get jerked around by your TBR pile? My fiction stack does it to me all the time. I guess when you read different authors writing in different genres (the joys of having to keep up with five genres) one right after the other, you're bound to ride the quality rollercoaster. Reading four books in a row, I generally expect a range of terrific to okay, although I've been regularly hit with two terrifics, a yawn and a way-stupid, as well as a totally-lame, two okays and a someone-paid-real-money-for-this?
I think my problem is that I haven't been reading fiction for pleasure for the last couple of years. Lately I read only for market analysis, as a critique, for quotes, or as a homework assignment from my editors or agent. Then there's finding the time to read, which regularly gets sacrificed for time to research, write, edit and obsess over my own stuff. The dust bunnies on my TBR piles are quietly growing into dust blue whales.
I started off this run of excellent luck a couple of weeks ago with Key of Sea by Mary Stella. I intended to read the book for a quote, but I actually ended up reading it because I desperately needed something to take my mind off my troubles for a couple of hours. I picked up Mary's book deliberately, because it looked like fun, and it's set in the Florida Keys, a place I vacationed when I was a kid. Also, if you hang out here, you already know how fond I am of Mary. I wasn't expecting much because at the time I was in a pretty bad way -- I wasn't even sure I'd be able to finish it.
Contrary to my expectations, Key of Sea welcomed me in, brought me back to a place of many happy childhood memories, and swept me away.
I could get into all the technical reasons why Key of Sea is so terrific, and why I'm predicting that Mary Stella is going to write many wonderful romances for us, but that wasn't the most important thing about this book. It was terrific for other reasons that aren't so easily explained. You know how it feels to be wrapped in a soft, lovely quilt on a cold night? That's exactly how I felt after reading this one. Safe, warm, cozy and, in a strange way, protected. A great romance is an affirmation of all I believe in -- and Mary delivers that.
Reading Key of Sea also reawakened my much-suppressed desire to read for pleasure again, and sent me back to the TBR stack for more.
Donna Hill's Getting Hers was the next book waiting to be read. I also had a feeling about this one when I read the premise from the book jacket. Not a cozy feeling at all, because this is a tale of revenge.
I was worried about this one, frankly. It was in the literature section, and I was in no state to read something plotless and depressing. Revenge is also a tough theme. Few writers can pull it off, most resort to sugar-coating it with fluff or fantasy. I thought about putting it aside, but I decided to gamble on the fact that I had already read one of Donna Hill's novellas in a romance anthology and enjoyed it quite a bit.
Getting Hers is not plotless or depressing. It's a jewel and a challenge, like opening one of those marvelous Japanese puzzle boxes. You'd probably call it a mainstream novel, but it's not just that. There is a romance, but it's not just that, either. It's also a suspenseful mystery, but it's not just -- well, you get the picture. In addition to a very unusual cast of characters and circumstances, and a fingernails-in-the-palms storyline, it's subtle, intelligent, and inventive. All that, and yet it still kicks you out of your chair.
I'm going to think about this one for a long time, because it's that kind of book --unexpected, interesting, won't leave you alone. Only one complaint: if Donna Hill doesn't write a sequel to Getting Hers, I'm going to become very cranky.
Tomorrow: Why I should listen to Vanessa Jaye more often, and why make three wishes when you can get everything you want with one?