Although it’s poetry month, I’ve been reading fiction lately as a little break from poetry and memoir.
I chose well because I enjoyed all three books. These are the reviews I posted (pretty much word for word) at both Amazon and Goodreads.
My favorite of the three was It’s In His Kiss, written by Vickie Lester who blogs over at Beguiling Hollywood. This contemporary murder mystery is set in present-day Palm Springs and Los Angeles. I know the time period because the characters own cell phones, but the ambiance, shenanigans, and secrets come from a long-time Hollywood tradition that features real life mysteries such as the Black Dahlia murder, George Reeves (Superman), Bob Crane (Hogan’s Heroes), and maybe even Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe.
I was hooked very early on–in part because of the compelling story and in part because after a whirlwind romance (hook-up? you decide–I don’t want to give anything away) the reader is slammed with a shock. Lester keeps shaking the reader up as one Hollywood secret after another is divulged. She’s a master at creating believable southern California characters (main character Anne’s father Bob stepped off the page and into my kitchen), but even better at her precise and breathtaking descriptions of the city. She knows the roads, the landmarks, and how it all fits (and doesn’t fit) together better than anybody I’ve read in a long time.
Lester’s witty approach fits the subject and the culture well. I appreciated the occasional nod to pop culture. For instance, she calls a scary pseudo-religion “Clientology.” These touches give the book the feeling of a roman à clef which heightens the illusion of reality. And when it came time to reveal the mystery, I was shocked, but thrilled to discover a satisfying conclusion. If I were you, I would jump through the book image to Amazon to order It’s In His Kiss.
Next up is Ape House, written by Water for Elephants novelist Sara Gruen. I have been captivated by nonfiction stories of animals learning to communicate on human terms since I was in high school. I used to teach Koko’s Kitten to future teachers because I hoped they would share the importance of interspecies communication with their own students one day.
This book takes the real story of Gruen’s experiences with bonobos who can sign and adds lots of excitement. It’s a fast-paced mystery, adventure, and love story. That’s a good thing because it ought to bring home to readers the story of primate communication with humans to readers who don’t know anything about it. It’s a quick read and even if your life is chaotic you can get “into” the book immediately. This was a 4 star book, although I can understand why some people would give it a 5. I think it tried to be a little more serious than it really was, which is why I give it a 4.
Finally, I wanted a light historical mystery, so I chose The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber. This book turned out to also be a romance, in a Gothic sense. I’m looking forward to the second book in the series. Lady Darby is an artist which makes her very appealing. A few times I felt annoyed at the contemporary perspective on women’s issues taking me out of the scene and setting. Lady Darby has enough clothing for a much wealthier woman, too, but the dress descriptions make for delicious reading. One gripe I had was that the frequent mention of the green cloak was belied by the red one on the woman on the cover of the book. Why can’t a cover truly represent what lies within? I gave the book a 4 star rating based on the quality for its genre. I don’t expect it to be something that it isn’t. But if you judge it against the two books above, it’s a 3 star.
I’ve ordered more books to add to my to-be-read stack, not because I have a lot of spare time ahead, but because it’s very comforting to have plenty of books to read.
How about you? Does a stack of unread books comfort you or stress you out?
36 responses to “My Fiction Reading During National Poetry Month”
I will definitely check out your recommendations, Luanne. I’ve always enjoyed reading – it is a chance to immerse myself in a world that is unfamiliar to my own.
Me too, Rudri. My mom says that when I was a baby my favorite thing was to turn pages of books and magazines and then rip and crumple each page up ;).
Thanks for your beautifully written book reviews and recomendations. I need to read more!!
WJ, it’s easy to fall out of the habit with so many other things going on in life. But it’s so rewarding. Try to fall back into it.
A stack is a stressor but I still have them. New books are irresistible, especially when I read a post like this!
Yes, it can be stressful, especially if you feel that the writer or book giver is waiting to hear what you think. But it’s also stressful not to have an unread book in the house! 😉
There’s no worries about unread books in our house. Although there was the great purge of 2014, there are 5 of us and they just keep coming into the house as regular as groceries.
You have no idea how often I think of the great purge of 2014. It’s so hard for me to understand, but I do get that there are space limitations. So funny that books still keep showing up!
Thanks for the reviews. I’ve been ‘off’ fiction for awhile myself as nothing has grabbed my interest. The L.A. novel might be the ticket!
I love, love, love (even with a tad of ‘should’ stress) having a pile if books to be read – in fact I’ve got two orders in the pipeline as we speak!! And I set up a bookcase that houses only the books I haven’t yet read which is like having my own little bookstore 😀
Yes, it’s an excellent choice!! I love your idea of your own little bookstore. I need to be more organized about where I put my unread books–to make it more like you’re saying and so I can see them more easily!!!! Thanks, Sammy!
Thanks for the great reviews and recommendations, Luanne. It’s In His Kiss sounds great!
I think you would really enjoy it, Jill!!
How wonderful of you to include me in such good company! I am so delighted you liked the book, and when we meet (for I’m sure we will) I will make you one of “Bob Brown’s” ice cream sundaes.
I love your book! And I love Bob Brown. He is sort of a cross between a beloved TV chef and Mel Horowitz, Cher’s dad, in Clueless–emphasis on the latter. I’ve been dreaming about those sundaes with that homemade syrup.
Reblogged this on BEGUILING HOLLYWOOD and commented:
This is turning out to be a WOW day! Many thanks to author Luanne Castle!
Great review. I love how writers form character images in my mind. I’m ready to meet Bob!
You will love Bob! He’s a hoot!
I read Vickie Lester’s book in one sitting. I started in the evening and finished it at dawn! I’ve known those people!
I wish there were more, I loved every syllable! I understand she has another one in the works and I can’t wait to read it.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I agree–I didn’t want to put it down either!
I’m really happy to hear about Ape House. I loved Water For Elephants and just learned that Sara Gruen had a new book out. Great reviews – all three of them.
Viv, can you believe I haven’t read Water for Elephants? I have to remedy that soon. I really want to see how it compares with Ape House. Ape House would actually make a good movie as it has very cinematic qualities. It’s slightly silly sometimes, and I kind of think Elephants might not be like that?
Luanne, aren’t you brave for branching out into fiction?? I admire you for it, but the closest thing I’ve read to fiction in recent years was the Inner Mind of Elvis. Yikes – I hope that was fiction! 🙂
Sheila, you can’t imagine how this made me laugh. Yes, I am very brave ;). I had to go check out the book you’re talking about: Inner Elvis. What a strange book–sounds both intriguing and kind of schlocky. It’s billed as some kind of biography, but it does sound like fiction!!!
Gonna go get the first one now! Need something new to read.
Enjoy!! I hated putting down the book when I had to work.
Great reviews Luanne, I have never known a time when I don’t have a stack of books to read. I find it exciting that it will never end and I will always have something to read. Although finding the time to read is a luxury and if I sat in the middle of my day reading I think it would be a guilty pleasure. So I don’t watch TV, instead I read every night and love it.
Kath, are you me?! Hah, that sounds just like how I feel and act about books!!!
Right now my stack of to-read books is stressing me out. Some of my stack are novels self-published by blogging friends and so I feel some pressure in getting the books read and reviewed. Not enough hours in the day, especially now that I’m taking the poetry course as well. That’s even more reading … lol … I need to retire just so I can have time to read. And then you post not one, but THREE book reviews, all of which sound like good reads. I will resist buying them though … for the time being 😉
When you do, get Vickie Lester’s book! Good luck on making your way through your stack, Marie.
Thanks, Luanne, I’ll need all the luck I can get since yesterday I was huddled in the corner of my couch with a guide to writing poetry on one side of me and a tome of 20th-century American poets on the other side 😉
LOL. That sounds like a lot of work for a free course! They are serious!
Oh, they are serious although they don’t assign reading. The books are my idea because I am so new to writing/studying poetry. Still, the requirements for the certificate are plenty to keep up with!
It’s always interesting to see what others are reading. I read “It’s In His Kiss” too. Really enjoyed it.
I have far too many books waiting on my bookshelf and my Kindle. It stresses me out a little, because it seems impossible to get to them all, especially the Indies by fellow bloggers I enjoy reading. So many books, so little time…
I haven’t read any of these Luanne, so thanks for your reviews – some eclectic reading there! I recently read through a lot of the fiction on my Kindle as it was starting to stress me out having such a long list!
I like how you share more than memoirs on your blog, Luanne. You spread the love for reading and writing into so many genres. I would like the mystery and the interspersion of reality and popular culture in “It’s In His Kiss,” Luanne.
I enjoyed a book about a slave child who learned from her ‘mistress’ how to paint, with a parallel story of a woman who is a lawyer working on the Reparation Act. It is called, “The House Girl” by Tara Conklin. I like taking two periods about the girl, “Josephine” and the young woman, Caroline or ‘Lina.” It includes history and present times.
I have been re-reading the books by Tess Gerritsen, the coroner and the police woman friendship which is roughly depicted in “Rizzoli and Isles.” I don’t get nervous about my big pile of borrowed books, which mean I have a month to return to the library or no time limit to return to my two friends who ‘loan’ me their books. I have a silly series of Joanne Fluke books I read to help me relax, a bakery shop owner solves mysteries and dates two men in the same small town. Smiles, Robin
The Joanne Fluke books sound fun. I love books like that. “The House Girl” sounds like an amazing book. I’m so glad that you have plenty of books to choose from to read, Robin! Book loaners are great friends :)!!!