A few days ago I got an update from GoodReads telling me what my “friends” had reviewed that week. I don’t generally read them in depth, I just give them a cursory look to see if there’s any reviews by my actual friends or of books I want to read.

In this particular update, I noticed an author had rated his own book and gave it a 5-star rating, natch. In the actual review he indicated he was the author, so full disclosure, no problem, right?

I don’t know, I kind of have a problem with it. It seems like cheating, you know? I posted this question on Twitter and one of my author friends said the 5-star rating he gave his own book gives it a negligible boost in the overall rating. Said author friend further justified the practice by saying it kind of evens out the unfair, 1-star ratings a book gets, you know, the kind that say “I haven’t even read this book but I’m giving it 1-star because the cover is ugly.”

I’m not convinced. Still feels like cheating to me.

I’m not published yet so perhaps I will feel different when I am. But right now, as a reader, I don’t like it.

What say you?


Before_sleep

From the book's website:

Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle- aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

But it’s the phone call from a Dr. Nash, a neurologist who claims to be working with Christine without her husband’s knowledge, that directs her to her journal, hidden in the back of her closet. For the past few weeks, Christine has been recording her daily activities and rereading past entries, relearning the facts of her life as retold by the husband she is completely dependent upon.

Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more un- believable it seems.

What happens when you've lost your memory and must begin every day without remembering the day before it? This is what's happened to Christine Lucas. The prospect seems disturbing, even horrible, at first, but as the book goes on you realize that it's truly terrifying.

If I had one criticism of this book, I'd say it wasn't fast paced enough, but then I generally read novels so fast paced I find myself gasping for breath. By comparison, this one moves relatively slow. However, it is full of suspense, and I quickly became completely invested in Christine, rooting for her to regain her memory, or at least understand what had happened to her. Ultimately, it's a thoroughly satisfying read.

I gave Before I Go to Sleep 5 stars on GoodReads.

Happy New Year!

I love the start of a new year. Everything feels all fresh and full of potential. Actually, I love smaller starts too: Mondays, Birthdays, whatever. I don't need much to motivate me to start something new or act on a plan.

That said, I do have a few goals for 2012. One of them is to read more books and another is to review more of those books. I'm not much of a reviewer though–I leave that to my friends like Jen Forbus, Elizabeth A. White, and Pop Culture Nerd.

Still, I do like to record my thoughts about books on websites like GoodReads, and occasionally, Amazon (though I would encourage you to purchase the book at your local independent bookstore, such as Mysterious Galaxy or Murder by the Book). Just a quick blurb about what I liked and/or didn't like about a novel. Starting this year, I'm also going to post these "mini reviews" here on my blog.

So, without further delay, here's my first review of 2012:

Vengeance

Overall, I loved this book, as I do all the Kinsey Millhone novels. Reading one is like visiting an old friend, and I always feel a tiny bit lonely when I'm finished, knowing it'll be two years before I get to see her again. With that said, V's plot was a little too convoluted and tied up a little too neatly at the end. It starts out strong, then sags a bit toward the end of the middle, without picking up again until nearly the very end. It's still a good book, and worthy of Kinsey, it's just not the best of Grafton's series.

 

This year I kept track of the books I read using Good Reads. I set an initial goal of reading 25 books, but upped it to 35 sometime mid-year when I realized I was way ahead of schedule. I'm at 33 now with three weeks to go until we ring in the new year.

Here are my top ten picks for 2011, in no particular order:

1) A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF by Lawrence Block

Drop

What can I say? This book was a treat. I thought we'd seen the last of Matthew Scudder, one of my all-time favorite private eyes in fiction, but thankfully, Mr. Block decided he had another story to tell about Matt Scudder and the result is one of the strongest Scudder novels yet.

Possess_coverMy friend Kate Carruth is a 13-year-old avid reader who was kind enough to stop by my blog today and give her thoughts about Gretchen McNeil's debut novel, POSSESS. Thanks, Kate!

The novel Possess by Gretchen McNeil is a unique and equally thrilling story. With a tough and rebellious heroine and a mysterious cast, the whole plot makes a great story that you just do not want to put down. McNeil does a skillful and artistic job of piecing everything together in her very first novel.

Possess starts off with a bang and no lag at all. The main character, Bridget, comes off as any other good Catholic girl who cares next to nothing about what people think about her. And then you realize, after you learn of her father’s murder and a demonic experience of banishment, she as far from your typical teenage girl as one can get. After hearing cold, monstrous voices in the walls and feeling the atmosphere around her change, she seeks out help from the exorcist Monsignor Renault, who teaches her how to use her newfound power. Everything changes when a suspicious character turns up, Father Santos. He warns Bridget of what she is and is surprised to hear that she doesn’t already know. Once a close friend of hers is murdered at her church, the only person she can trust is luscious, but annoyingly overprotective, Matt Quinn. That’s when the story really begins to take off and the mysteries unravel.

I’ve been super excited to start reading Possess over my Thanksgiving break. I am pleased to say that the story was simply astounding. The main character, Bridget, is loveable and somebody you can totally relate to (except for her exorcism powers, that is). The humor in this book is much like the humor Rick Riordan shows in his Percy Jackson series to ease the darkness and tension of some parts. Also, the right information is given to you at the right time, unlike some books that throw a boatload of knowledge at you out of the blue. Another one of my favorite aspects of this book is the romance. You really feel how the character feels for another character, and the love isn’t excessive’ cheesy, or sappy. This is finally a book that fits that criteria. If you liked Banished by Sophie Littlefield or the fantasy bits of the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Myers, I highly suggest this book. Possess is aimed toward people who love thrillers with dark humor. It is most definitely a book that will please everyone.

This novel is surely one that will please all who read it. Possess is an incredible story, the first book written by Gretchen McNeil. I am very impressed with her ability to write for she has a really special gift. If you’re searching for an exciting, captivating read that never skips a beat, look no further than Possess. Trust me, it’s seriously awesome and worth your time.

Dani Amore is the author of DEATH BY SARCASM and DEAD WOOD. Today she was kind enough to stop by the blog and tell us about her path to publication.

I decided to become an independent author because a famous writer gave his reason for why you shouldn’t self-publish.  Basically, he said that if you’ve written a novel and can’t attract interest from an agent, you probably haven’t written a good enough book. So don’t self publish.

I had written a novel that attracted attention from an agent. In fact, I’d written two different novels that had attracted two different agents.

The agents had several things in common:

1.  They both represented New York Times bestselling authors.
2.  They both believed in my respective crime novels.
3.  They each represented me (one in 2003, the other, in 2005)
4. They absolutely could not sell my respective crime novels.  Despite going out to many publishers.

So I after the second agent couldn’t sell the second book, I found myself without agent representation.

I’m feeling pretty low.  I’ve taken to calling myself Miss-Can’t-Sell-A-Book.

Of course, I can’t stay away from the blank page.  So I write a thriller.  My most ambitious work to date.  The manuscript is 600 pages or so.  110,000 words.  It’s dark. Gritty.  Bad-ass. I love it.

Nazareth_ Child2On Friday night I went to a launch party for Darrell James's debut novel, NAZARETH CHILD. It's a book I've been looking forward to, and it was great to celebrate the release with Darrell and well, a hundred or so of his best friends. The great thing is that many of those friends are my friends too.

The following morning, I tweeted "I talked so much last night my throat is sore today." See, you get me in a room full of writing friends and I get so excited to have someone to talk to about writing and books, I can't shut up.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.

On Monday, the esteemed Steve Weddle asked this question on DO SOME DAMAGE:

"Wasn't Twitter supposed to kill crime fiction conventions? You make friends online, you don't need to meet them 'in person' to know them. Isn't that the, ahem, conventional wisdom?"

For me, the answer is no.

Don't get me wrong. Twitter is the single most useful tool I've found for networking on a daily basis. Every contact I've made in the publishing world started there, but I never intended for them to end there.

From the beginning, I made an effort to go out and meet the people I connected with on Twitter in person. If I recall correctly, the first Twitter friend I met was Linda Brown from the Mystery Bookstore. Soon after I met James Scott Bell. When I became aware of conferences, both local and national, I attended them. At my first Bouchercon in Indianapolis, I not only met Ali Karim, a twitter buddy for whom I have the highest regard, but two of my writing idols, David Liss and Sue Grafton. I walked away from that conference higher than a kite, and it wasn't because I'd spent too much time in the hotel bar.

I could go on and on, but I won't.

Social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter, and to a much lesser extent, this blog and other websites) have all been important in my journey to publication. They are, in many ways, crucial to getting published, and I could quite easily argue they're all you need (well, besides a kick ass book and some luck).

But I need the personal contact too. I need to be able to sit at the hotel bar and geek out and be a fan girl and talk incessantly about books and writing to like-minded people until my voice gets hoarse. I love doing it online, but that personal contact, however infrequent, strengthens the common bond we all have: a love for books.

And now, if you'll pardon me, I need to go pack for Bouchercon 2011. See you there, my friends.