Sunday, January 06, 2019

Review: Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks

Her One MistakeHer One Mistake by Heidi Perks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The novel opens with Charlotte Reynolds preparing to give a statement to the police. It's a device for starting a narrative, but also flags that we can expect to read Something Horrible in the near future.
Thirteen days earlier, Charlotte took her three children to a school fair. She also took little Alice, the daughter of Harriet, her best friend. Harriet was taking Charlotte updates her online status at a critical moment, and Alice disappears. The police are summoned, and the child is nowhere to be found. Harriet and her husband are notified, and Charlotte must endure not only condemnation from the public (her posting on social media becomes public knowledge), but her own guilt for letting her best friend down.
This book kept surprising me. The author and setting are both British, so I expected to plow through a lot of setting the scene and character introduction. The first few pages provide this information, including a bit of tension between Charlotte and ex-husband Tom, but the action--and seeds of doubt--begin early.
Harriet was taking a course in bookkeeping. This is why Charlotte had Alice with her in the first place. This seems very normal, but Brian, Harriet's husband, is surprised. He hadn't been told. Why?
Heidi Parks is an artist at giving out one piece of information at a time, shifting the reader's idea of the truth again and again. Secret after secret is revealed, pulling the reader deeper into the well of mental games, broken relationships, and murder. I kept picking up echoes of Gaslight and Bunny Lake is Missing, and was delighted.
I received a free NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. My honest review is that Her One Mistake is a great read, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy psychological suspense.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Critters Readers' Poll: Up for Awards

Lesfic story I edited. Good read!
One story, one novel, and one anthology I edited are up for awards in the Critters Readers' Poll. This used to be the Preditors and Editors Readers' Poll, but apparently P and E has been inactive for a while.

The short story: Dragons and Thorns, by B.B. Anders. B.B. Anders also contributed to an anthology I edited a while back, Mardi Gras Murder. Dragons and Thorns is a lesfic story with some erotic content.
  • Vote for Dragon and Thorns here!

The novel: Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case, by Rosalind Barden. Rosalind has contributed to numerous anthologies Mystery and Horror, LLC has published.

The anthology: Strangely Funny V, which is the sixth book in the series.
  • Vote for Strangely Funny V as an anthology!
  • You can also vote for individual stories from SF V here and here! The authors have been invited to nominate their stories.
Voting will be going on through January 14th. I'd appreciate it if you would participate in the poll and support these fine authors.

Many thanks!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Context

This squid's context (boogie board) was very bad. We returned it to the ocean.
Sometimes it is important to know your true setting, and how others interpret it.

During one of our previous iterations of "Let's get into better shape," Gwen and I joined the YMCA. It was located in downtown Lexington, KY, which was very close to my workplace at the time. We would exercise (FYI: that YMCA had the coldest swimming pool in town!) and then shower.

While we were toweling off in the locker room one afternoon, I was greeted by the Chief of Staff of my employer. We had a short and pleasant exchange about the virtues of exercise and the convenience of the facility.

Flash forward about a week. The Chief of Staff visits our office. She said that it had been a while since she'd seen us, "except for Sarah. I saw her when we were both naked."

Everyone in the room was aware of my sexual orientation... except her. They were all quiet, so she repeated it. Then she added that we were both in the locker room at the Y, and my coworkers laughed. For a moment, I'm sure some of them thought, "no wonder she still has a job."

I'm trying to find my personal context again. Like most people, I partially define myself by my occupation. And why not? Your job determines a large portion of your social life, what lifestyle you can afford, and 'free time' to get other stuff done.

I've lost my context. The good part is that I've used the time to write, exercise, and even clean things.  The more difficult part is looking for a new place to work. Tampa Bay is a tough job market, but I'm wondering if there's a way to choose my context this time. Maybe I should look for contract, temporary, or part-time work, giving me more time to write and focus on the press. We may need to cut out some luxuries, but wouldn't advancing our personal goal of self-sufficiency as authors be worth it?

I don't know yet. I do hope that, when I find my next job, it is filled with good people like the ones that laughed that day.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Book Review: A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee

A Necessary Evil (Sam Wyndham, #2)A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you've read Kipling or other Victorian stories set in India, this novel contains some of those elements, but it gives you the bad as well as the good. An excellent murder mystery with strong characters of both nationalities and genders.

Plotline in a nutshell: Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant 'Surrender-not' Banerjee travel to Sambalpore to solve the murder of an Indian prince. This description, though, doesn't begin to encompass the rest of the story: our entry into a realm where exorbitant opulence and crushing poverty meet, and leaving the relative familiarity of British culture for one less so to an American reader like myself.

I strongly recommend the book.

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Saturday, December 01, 2018

Unemployed

My employer did many things for me. I accumulated retirement again, Gwen and I had 'regular' healthcare again, and we were able to move into our own home.

The catch: my job was in the shrinking part of the company. I'm not going to get too specific here, but technology is rapidly rendering it obsolete. Some jobs were outsourced to cut down on expenses, but dwindling returns kept the demand for cuts high. The game of Musical Chairs began before my arrival, and I lasted for a long time. Yesterday, when the tune stopped playing, I lost.

I have a number of conflicting emotions about this. There's disappointment, anger, and fear for the future, but there's also a sense of relief. I've never liked Musical Chairs, for the same reason I don't like Jenga: too much stress. Someone is going to lose, and every misstep, every move you make could lead to your downfall. 

I will miss the people, but not the stress.




Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Review: Dark Tide Rising By Anne Perry (William Monk #24)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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William Monk has changed his profession several times since I began reading the series many, many years ago. Police detective, private detective, investigator for attorneys, etc. His position with the River Police, though, seems to have become his permanent berth. He's settled into the role, assumed the mantle of authority, and formed ties to his men, a change from the alienation he experienced in the early books. Those ties will be challenged in this novel.

Oliver Rathbone contacts Monk on behalf of Harry Exeter. His wife, Kate, has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. Exeter is willing to pay the ransom, but it requires that he go to a very dangerous area along the river and he wants protection against robbery (en route) and double-crossing during the transfer. Monk accompanies Exeter personally and stations his men in nearby locations to try catching the kidnappers after the safe return of Kate. Instead, the double-cross does happen, and the police are ambushed in their locations.

Kate Exeter is dead, and clearly the kidnappers knew where Monk’s men were going to be. Someone has provided the information to the bad guys, and it could only be someone involved in the exchange. Monk must investigate his own men to clear or condemn them. They all have secrets, and they all have weaknesses… did one knuckle under to blackmail? Worse…bribery?

One of Monk’s men, John Hooper, often takes center stage during this novel. Like Monk, he is agonizing over the idea that they were all betrayed… and, as the secrets of his fellow officers are revealed, it becomes clear that he has one of his own, and it could cost him everything.

As Monk pursues his leads, the trail of crime enters Superintendent Runcorn’s patch. Runcorn, Monk’s old boss and former enemy, develops his own opinions on the case, which don’t always agree with Monk’s. Runcorn charges the husband with murder, and Monk, with Rathbone, work to prove Harry Exeter innocent.

The case ends with a twist I didn’t expect the author to make. It keeps the story from entirely sinking into the tawdry background of Monk’s many cases (since this is the twenty-fourth Monk novel).
I was pleased to see Monk’s men fleshed out further, even under the unpleasant circumstances, and I enjoyed Runcorn’s bold entry into the investigation. Monk’s wife, Hester, does appear in this book, though not frequently enough for my tastes. Scuff, their adopted son, is maturing nicely and has developed ambitions for his future. Beata, Oliver’s new wife, also makes a brief appearance.

Perry often ends the book shortly after revealing the killer; this is one of those occasions. I like a little more denoument, personally, but it wasn't too abrupt. It did remind me a little of a Perry Mason ending, where all is revealed on the stand.

I accessed this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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Saturday, September 01, 2018

Speaking of Dystopias...


A remarkable amount of fundraising is going on, and much of it is for services we normally associate with the government, or at least public money. Meanwhile, the fields that used to produce income and ad buys, like journalism and fiction writing, has been reduced to begging for sponsors.

Meanwhile, the pizza people are paving roads, because it's not getting done.

Every day is Backwards Day, it seems.

In the last year or two, I've donated to help a child get necessary surgery, to help a friend who lost her home due to a fire, to help another friend in danger of losing the family's home due to outsourcing + crappy job market, and to bury a friend whose family couldn't afford a funeral. In all these cases, I had some form of personal connection to someone involved with the need. Think of all the unpopular people out there - and the names and faces change regularly - who aren't getting help because they are introverted or belong to whichever marginalized group is in bad odor.

This is why we need public funds for assistance: because shit happens. Businesses kept the money from the recent tax cuts for buybacks of stock and consolidating power, not creating jobs so fewer Americans would need to beg. Just because it's on social media doesn't mean it's not a form of begging. Charles Dickens would understand our society very well.

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