Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Recs I

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?


  1. Anonymous12:32 AM

    Always nice to get opinions from someone I trust. Beats the hell out of the morons that do it for a living. Since you are on a roll with good reads, I'll add in one I'm reading now. The Hot Kid, by Elmore Leonard. Turning out to be Leonard at his best. If you like crime fiction and haven't read any of Leonard's novels, pick one up. Any library or book store will have four or five of his titles on the shelf.

    -- F

  2. Anonymous12:48 AM

    So happy you liked Getting Hers. Donna and I spent many an hour brainstorming that plot :-).

  3. So glad you enjoyed Mary's KEY OF SEA. As one of her critique partners, I get to read her work as she creates and it is always a joy! And how wonderful that she inspired you to read for pleasure. :) I'm sure you just made her year.

  4. Okay, I need to wipe the tears out of my eyes so that I can type cleanly.

    You humble me with your praise of my book. Thank you for loving Key of Sea and for so generously sharing your opinion on your blog.


  5. I think I'm going to have to attack my TBR pile very soon and be ruthless. I have way too many books in it that aren't getting read and have no possibility of being read anytime soon. :-/ Thanks for the recommendations.

  6. I got to work on my TBR pile a bit, too, thanks to problems in the family and a big bad cold. For some reason reading distracted me better than working on my NiPs* those last two weeks - for the first time since I started writing in autumn 2001.

    * It's not only the writing, but also the research and planning/outlining stuff I count here.

  7. I'm looking forward to your three wishes bit. Unless it's a wish for a djinn who will grant all your wishes, I'm stumped.

  8. Just ordered the book you were gloating about last week *g* but Getting Hers is already on my to buy list

  9. Tomorrow: Why I should listen to Vanessa Jaye more often,

    Mind sharing that info with my kid and my boss? ;-)

    of course, now I'm riddled with curiosity since I do my darnest to sprout pure foolishnes over on the procrastination station.

    Oh, and thanks ever so much for even MORE books recommendations. Don't you know I'm trying to shrink my pile woman?!

  10. I've come to accept that shrinking a TBR pile is as fruitless as Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the Hades hill.

    I thought I'd made a dent. Then today I ordered a certain new Private Demon book, plus several other new reads.

    Oh well. It's not like I ever want to look around and think, "Wow. I have nothing to read." I'd go insane.


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