All the ARCs

God I love Netgalley. I’m an ebook addict as it is, and now I can read things that haven’t even been published yet. It’s like someone pulled that directly from the I WANT section of my brain.

Netgalley

The flipside, of course, is that I must review all of the books I read through Netgalley – which is no problem in theory, but I kind of hate publishing bad reviews. And some of the stuff is…not so good. (Some of it is VERY good and I do a little dance every time I’m approved.) I’d been publishing all my reviews here as well as on Goodreads, but I think I’ll stick to Goodreads for everything that I don’t absolutely love. So, you know, follow me there if you want to read about my less-than-favorites. And follow here for things that blow me away, like the latest Lisa Unger book, which – have you read it yet? Go! Now!

 

Book Review: In The Blood

In The BloodTHIS is how you do a thriller.

Nothing about In The Blood is what it seems. Nobody is who you think they are. You want an unreliable narrator? Main character Lana Granger isn’t even sure she herself is telling the truth. It isn’t until you’re about three-quarters of the way through the book that you realize how cleverly Lisa Unger has obfuscated things with the use of simple pronouns.

Quite simply, this book is genius. Read it. And then read it again, slowly, now that you know the ending. It’s worth it.

Book Review: Coldwater

ColdwaterThe entertainment industry, amirite? Also drugs and alcohol. Because redemption.

Coldwater calls itself “femme noir,” which I’m not at all sure about as a genre in general or in reference to Coldwater in particular, but whatever. Our hapless heroine is Brett Tanager, a member of the Hollywood elite until her drug problem renders her unemployable. Rock bottom is hit. Life changes are made. There is a stepdaughter who goes missing and several murders that it seems only Brett can solve. Also AA meetings, and a hit-and-run that eats at Brett’s conscience.

But despite all that, it’s a really fun read. The action is fast-paced, the storyline is engaging, and Gould obviously knows a thing or two about addiction and recovery.

My main complaint has to do with the ending – more specifically, the fact that it didn’t end. There’s a whole chapter tacked on that drags out the feel-good finish and concludes with an almost cutesy “…and that’s the book you’ve just read” (I’m paraphrasing). Coldwater would have been SO much better without the last bit.

Book Review: The Orphan Choir

The Orphan ChoirCreepy psychological thriller FTW.

I love Sophie Hannah, and while I didn’t inhale The Orphan Choir the way I did, say, Little Face, I did stay up half the night reading it. I love, love, love the fact that the protagonist is so unlikable. She’s unlikable in a very real way; several times while I was reading I found myself making faces at the page and thinking how very much I would hate to be married to someone like that. It’s exhausting to be Louise Beeston. She’s paranoid and neurotic and narcissistic to the point that she can’t imagine how everything could not be about her. She keeps herself awake weeping because she’s sure her neighbor is plotting against her.

But here’s the other part: her neuroses stem from the fact that her seven year old son, a singing prodigy, has been accepted to a prestigious boarding school. I’ve got a seven year old son; I cannot imagine only getting to see him at performances and on holidays. So she’s horrible, yes, but I can sympathize with some of it.

The horror element of the story builds slowly; if you’re looking for something that will plunge you into the action, this is not the book for you. But because Louise is so self-involved, the reader actually starts feeling the horror before she does, which is a lot of fun.

The bottom line: this is a great ghost story, and a nice departure from Hannah’s other thrillers (which are fantastic in their own right).

Book Review: Killer Image

Killer Image by Wendy TysonFile under: don’t judge a book by its cover. The copy I read has a stylized fashion-plate drawing on the cover, so I was expecting a fluffy, frivolous “mystery” in which the burning question is less whodunit and more will she get the guy. Instead, KILLER IMAGE is a relatively dark murder mystery, full of plot twists and secrets.

As a main character, Alison Campbell is interestingly flawed. The secondary characters are nicely fleshed out, although they did seem a bit more like caricatures than actual people at times. Take, for example, the paraplegic brother of Alison’s assistant, who – after years of reading and TV but no actual detective training – manages to not only solve the case but is subsequently hired to consult for the police department. Or the ghost of patients past who has haunted Alison throughout the story who turns out to have (confusingly) died in a car crash (rather than in some sort of brothel-related accident, as Alison had always supposed), leaving behind a doppelg√§nger daughter with Alison’s name. Such details took away from the story rather than enhancing it, because, even though it would be nice to think so, things rarely end wrapped up with a neat little bow. But the main story arc is satisfying and the conclusion took shape in a strong and believable way. I especially loved the bit at the end where Alison’s abandoned clients swooped in and saved the day. (Okay, that part might not have been so believable…but it was fun.)

Book Review: Sideshow of Merit

Sideshow of MeritYou know that thing where an author interrupts the past tense narrative to say something like “little did I know how important that choice was” or something similar? It’s supposed to pique the reader’s interest, to make you want to know why that choice, which maybe otherwise might have just been logged as a thing that happened, was a Thing That Happened. It’s a useful trope.

When used sparingly, that is.

I’m willing to overlook the random formatting problems (I got my copy of Sideshow of Merit from Netgalley, after all, so I’m sure the final release will actually use paragraph breaks) and a certain amount of stylistic inconsistency, but after the tenth time the narrator broke tense I just started to get annoyed. I get it. Things happened. Choices were made. Some of them will impact things about which I have not yet been told. That’s sort of the point of a story.

Don’t get me wrong: the book wasn’t bad. The pacing was okay, and the plot was interesting enough to keep me reading. I didn’t really like the main character, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Mostly I just felt like I’d have liked to be more immersed in the story without the omnipresent author pulling me out of it. In a way, I guess, that’s a compliment to the book.

Really, you guys?

I’m taking some time off to have a baby. I am self-employed, and even if I weren’t, maternity leave is kind of a thing.¬†I made sure to give all my clients plenty of advance notice so that I could wrap up any ongoing projects and they could work out alternate solutions for any problems/updates/edits that may come up while I’m unavailable. Reactions to this have been…interesting:

“…when you get back from your vacation…”
“I know you’re going to be hanging out with your baby, but can you just take this one project at the end of August?” (Note: my due date is August 26.)
“Okay, but you haven’t had the baby yet – why aren’t you taking any new work?”
“Oh of course, you’re going to spend some time doing the mommy thing – but you’ll still be able to do little updates to my site, right?”
“I understand you’re going on sabbatical, but…”

Call me unreasonable, but I am sort of baffled by this. It’s not a “vacation.” I am not taking an extended break to work on my French. I’m going to be giving birth, recovering from giving birth, and caring for a newborn. Even if I have some downtime (in between extended bouts of breastfeeding and the minutiae of parenting a baby and a seven year old) I’ll be severely sleep-deprived. All of which is why I am taking some time off from work.

(I’d assumed that by calling it “maternity leave,” I wouldn’t have to explain any of that.)

I love my day job, and I’m looking forward to jumping back into it when I’m ready. In the US there are no laws or benefits that allow self-employed and freelance folks to go on maternity leave, and I feel lucky to be in a position where I can take time off to recover from childbirth and care for my new baby. I don’t think any of that means I’m suffering from a lack of commitment to my work or a sudden attack of A Woman’s Place Is In The Kitchen. I think it means I’m being realistic, knowing my limits, and choosing the best course of action for my business as well as my family.

And I love that, too.