Blog Tour: Impersonation

Blog Tour: ImpersonationImpersonation

By Heidi Pitlor

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Algonquin Books
on August 18, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-stars

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definitions of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a powerhouse lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her public image and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.

When Allie lands the job as Lana’s ghostwriter, it seems as if things will finally go Allie’s way. At last, she thinks, there will be enough money not just to pay her bills but to actually buy a house. After years of working as a ghostwriter for other celebrities, Allie believes she knows the drill: she has learned how to inhabit the lives of others and tell their stories better than they can.

But this time, everything becomes more complicated. Allie’s childcare arrangements unravel; she falls behind on her rent; her subject, Lana, is better at critiquing than actually providing material; and Allie’s boyfriend decides to go on a road trip toward self-discovery. But as a writer for hire, Allie has gotten too used to being accommodating. At what point will she speak up for all that she deserves?

A satirical, incisive snapshot of how so many of us now live, Impersonation tells a timely, insightful, and bitingly funny story of ambition, motherhood, and class.

Today I’m participating in the blog tour for Heidi Pitlor’s Impersonation from Algonquin Books (thank you for the advanced digital review copy!). Read on to see why I enjoyed this on!

This was such an intriguing story. I was at first drawn in because I was so fascinated by Allie’s ghostwriting and seeing what that writing process was like. 

This was also a complex story encompassing relationships, politics, parenting, and feminism. While Allie was raising her son as a single parent, at times depending on friends and neighbours to help look after him, Lana was making speeches and getting media attention for her bold feminism and policies purported to help mothers, like Allie. Yet as the work on the book progressed, it became more and more clear to me that Allie was not getting any helpful, informative input from Lana, and she began to include parts of her own life in her sample chapters.

One aspect of the book that really made an impression on me was the difference between the resources available to Allie and to Lana as parents. This quote from the author Heidi Pitlor, taken from the press release provided by the publisher, really illustrates it for me:

“When I was first an acquiring editor and later a part-time freelance editor with young twins and a teacher husband, things got pretty tight for us. I found myself shuttling between some fabulous work lunch at the Four Seasons with a well-known writer and a dinner of Kraft mac n’ cheese with my family. Twin diapers and daycare do not come cheap. When some more financially comfortable friend mentioned an upcoming eco-conscious vacation or their locally made toys, I grew frankly jealous, well aware that this was a first-world trouble. Still, I began to wonder if living according to certain ideals was only possible for the economically privileged.”

Heidi Pitlor, Impersonation press release provided by Algonquin Books

The last line of that quote, in particular, gets at something that I was thinking about while reading this book but couldn’t quite put into words. For example, I was uncomfortable and frustrated that Allie was struggling to find safe and affordable childcare while Lana appeared to have full-time, live-in help – and Lana was the one who’s name would be on the book about motherhood, a book which seemed more and more to be taking the shape of Allie’s memories and stories.

This feeling of disconnect between Allie and Lana took hold early on for me and the more Allie drew on her own experiences while writing the book, the more nervous I became, because I was certain that things were somehow going to come to a head. I was so tense leading up to the end!

But there are no easy answers or tidy solutions in this book, which was both frustrating and real. And given the current political climate, I think this was an especially timely, thought-provoking read.

My mind has wandered back to Impersonation several times since I finished. Recommended.

four-stars

All The Stars And Teeth

All The Stars And TeethAll The Stars And Teeth

By Adalyn Grace

Series: All the Stars and Teeth #1
Source Received from the publisher

Published by Imprint
on February 4, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

three-half-stars

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

This was a fun, engaging fantasy with some really interesting magic and great action scenes. I liked the group of four who ended up having to work together, and I really enjoyed seeing Princess Amora realize just how little she knew about her kingdom and her own magic. 

While the story moved at a brisk pace initially, it stalled for me towards the end. The romance was fine, but I was more interested in the way Amora and the others had to work together despite not trusting (or even liking) each other at first. Seeing that turn into relationships based on trust and the way they had to rely on each other further into the book to survive was way more interesting to me than any romance that may have been developing.

The ending has me really intrigued by what might be coming in book two, so I will definitely be checking out the sequel, All the Tides of Fate, when it comes out next year.

three-half-stars

Watching From The Dark

Watching From The DarkWatching From the Dark

By Gytha Lodge

Series: DCI Jonah Sheens #2
Source Library

Published by Random House
on February 25, 2020

four-stars

Aidan Poole logs onto his laptop late at night to Skype his girlfriend, Zoe. To his horror, he realizes that there is someone else in her flat, and Aidan can only listen to the sounds of a violent struggle taking place in the bathroom–and then the sound of silence. Aidan is desperate to find out if Zoe is okay. But then why is he so hesitant to call the police?

When his messages finally reach them, Detective Jonah Sheens and his team take the case–and discover the body. They soon find that no one has a bad word to say about Zoe, a big-hearted young woman at the center of a curious web of waifs and strays, each relying on her for support, each hiding dark secrets and buried resentments. Has one of her so-called “friends” been driven to murder? Or does Aidan have the biggest secret of them all?

This is the second in this series, and I loved getting to know more about the detectives on Jonah Sheen’s team. 

While I liked the mystery in She Lies in Wait better (historical/cold case whodunnit), I quite enjoyed the way this one unfolded and kept me guessing. The opening scene, in particular, was creepy and pulled me in immediately.

This is a series I intend to keep up with.

four-stars

The Heir Affair

The Heir AffairThe Heir Affair

By Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan

Series: Royal We #2
Source Purchased

Published by Grand Central Publishing
on July 7, 2020

three-half-stars

After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca “Bex” Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world’s judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they’d placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick’s brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten—nor forgiven.

I liked this book, although not as much as I liked its predecessor. 

I was really rooting for Bex and Nick throughout, but I was also annoyed throughout much of the book. Bex kept trying to reestablish her friendship with Freddie, but he needed some time and distance (understandably). There were moments where it seemed like Bex felt slighted that Freddie wouldn’t open up to her about his love life, for example, that irked me because it struck me as being selfish of her, and insensitive to both Freddie and Nick. She knew how Freddie felt about her and kept trying to act as though things were the way they were before, but both Freddie and Nick were uncomfortable with that.

I also think there is some dynamic at play where one person has feelings for anther person who, perhaps unintentionally, takes advantage of those feelings. I don’t know how to really put it into words but I kept thinking that when it came to Freddie, Bex had some upper hand in their relationship because of everything that had happened between them. And yet when Freddie made it clear that he needed time and space, Bex was hurt. It didn’t really seem to me that she was able to take his or Nick’s feelings into consideration. And when it seemed like Freddie was getting involved with someone and it was turning into a relationship, Bex got very judgmental about it, in a way that made me wonder if she was jealous – even though she was married to Nick and kept insisting that she didn’t feel that way about Freddie. Towards the end of the book, her mom tells her that she basically has to let Freddie go, and I had wanted someone to yell that at Bex throughout the entire book!  She came off as annoying and jealous every time Freddie was around and I did not like it or enjoy it.

My heart went out to Nick, who clearly loved Bex but had felt betrayed by both her and Freddie. I was most interested in seeing how the brothers would heal their relationship (or not) as the story went on. Not that Nick didn’t make some infuriating decisions either – there were moments where I wanted to yell at him, to get him and Bex to just talk to each other.

The Queen was a fascinatingly aggravating yet sympathetic character, and she ended up being my favourite person in the book. 

The thing that really got to me about this book, though, was View Spoiler »

All in all, this was a good, entertaining follow up to The Royal We, although I think it was overlong and dragged at times (and despite the THING that boggled my mind).

three-half-stars

The Progeny

The ProgenyThe Progeny

By Tosca Lee

Series: Descendants of the House of Bathory #1
Source Purchased

Published by Howard Books
on May 24, 2016

three-stars

Emily Jacobs is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.

She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, The Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. A story about the search for self filled with centuries-old intrigues against the backdrop of atrocity and hope.

This started off as a really quick, exciting read that had me wanting to learn more, but as I read on, my interest waned. I struggled though because while I was sympathetic to the ‘progeny’ of Elizabeth Bathory who were being hunted and killed, I also I was also sympathetic to the long-ago victims of Bathory, whose ancestors (Scions) were hunting the progeny down…and then of course got caught up in wondering why the Scions would go to such lengths for this kind of revenge, and killing Bathory’s descendants was no better than Bathory killing the Scion’s ancestors, and this was all just a lot of murder and revenge but not as interesting as I thought it would be. And then the whole underground ‘Court’ and the progeny abilities got to be too much for me on top of all of that.

So I didn’t love this book, but it ended on such a cliffhanger that I know I will eventually read book two to see what happens next.

three-stars

Quick Lit

July 2020

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and not always feeling like I want to write a full review for each book read (or sometimes I just don’t have much to say about a book). So I was inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit posts, as well as Hannah at So Obsessed With‘s monthly Quick Lit posts, and decided to do something similar as a way to briefly discuss the books I read in a month but don’t write full reviews for.

July was another great reading month for me: I read 22 books. Reading was really the only thing I did, since I am still having a really hard time focusing on watching TV and movies (I just keep on old episodes of The Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers in the background).

Here is the list of what I read in July that I have reviewed / will review on the blog (the links will take you to to my reviews here on the blog, and an asterisk marks the books that will be reviewed here in the future):

Home Before Dark, Riley Sager;

Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia;

The Truth Hurts, Rebecca Reid;

Harrow Lake, Kat Ellis;

Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam (review to come closer to release date)*;

The Heir Affair, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan*;

All the Stars and Teeth, Adalyn Grace*; and

The Progeny, Tosca Lee*.

Here are my thoughts on the rest of the books I read in July:

The Past is Never, Tiffany Quay Tyson (purchased) – 3⭐

This started off really strongly, but as it went on, I began to lose interest. I really liked the atmospheric writing, but couldn’t sustain my interest in the characters and their lives.

Nothing is Wrong and Here is Why, Alexandra Petri (library) – 4⭐

This was a collection of sharp, satirical essays that was at times exhilarating and exhausting to read (exhilarating because of the way she perfectly captured things I couldn’t identify or put into words but which I felt as I read; exhausting because I find, much like living in this era, reading about it can just feel like too much sometimes).

Empty, Susan Burton (library) – 4⭐

This was a really interesting read. It’s a memoir, but there was so much of it that was relatable. I really liked the writing and the combination of the author’s very personal experiences with more general information about a topic that I think has been overlooked.

In the Dream House: a Memoir, Carmen Maria Machado (library) – 4⭐

I’m not sure that I’ve ever read a memoir like this. The style was so captivating, and this was a really compelling book. It’s one that will stick in my brain.

My Life as a Villainess, Laura Lippman (e-ARC) – 3.5⭐

This was a mixed bag for me because the essays that I loved, I really loved. The others in this collection were interesting, but just didn’t grab me (which is probably pretty par for the course for essay collections). But Lippman is, of course, a great writer, and I loved how her personality came through in each piece. She is sharp, witty, and insightful.

My Summer of Love and Misfortune, Lindsay Wong (e-ARC) – 2⭐

I was looking forward to reading this one because the synopsis sounded so good but sadly I just could not get into this one. I really did want to like this, and I did initially enjoy reading about Iris in a new setting and culture than what she knew, but her initial lack of interest or curiosity about the world around her became an insurmountable obstacle for me. By the end, I was just reading to finish the book, not because I cared about the characters or what happened to them.

Want, Lynn Steger Strong (library) – 3⭐

This was a sort of aimless, meandering read (or at least it felt that way to me), with some interesting insight into Elizabeth’s desires. I don’t think I truly understood it or what the author was saying, but it kept me reading at least, trying to make sense of it.

Take Me With You, Tara Altebrando (library) – 2⭐

This sci-fi YA was just not for me. I probably should have DNFd but I was too curious about the ending to do that.

Possession, A.S. Byatt (purchased) – 3.5⭐

This had been on my TBR for so many years, and I think by the time I got around to reading it, I had built up really high expectations. So maybe that’s why I just liked it, but didn’t love it. The writing was beautiful and I loved the idea of a literary mystery, but I struggled to be interested at times in this particular mystery.

Wakenhyrst, Michelle Paver (purchased) – 3.5⭐

It took me some time to get into this one, but I really liked the gothic vibe and the way Maud’s story unfolded. It was a slow build with a good payoff.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, Allison Hoover Bartlett (library) – 3⭐

This was fine. It wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped it would be, but it was a fairly quick, diverting read.

Beach Read, Emily Henry (e-ARC) – 4⭐

There was more to this one than I was expecting, and I really enjoyed this book! I loved reading about January’s writing process and her relationship with Gus, which starts out with animosity and develops into a romance.

White is For Witching, Helen Oyeyemi (library) – 3⭐

I read it but I feel like I just didn’t understand it. I liked the descriptions and the mood, but when I finished I didn’t really get what had happened.

Saint X, Alexis Schaitkin (purchased) – 3.5⭐

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. It had interesting ideas and sometimes I was really moved by the writing, and the idea of the unknowability of another person – especially someone we think we do know – but I also found it boring at times. And I think the marketing is misleading for this one, because I bought it thinking it was more of a mystery/thriller, but by the time I read it, I’d heard that wasn’t accurate.

What have you been reading lately?

The Truth Hurts

The Truth HurtsThe Truth Hurts

By Rebecca Reid

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Harper Perennial
on July 28, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

three-half-stars

Is her husband hiding something?

Caught up in a whirlwind romance that starts in sunny Ibiza and leads to the cool corridors of a luxurious English country estate, Poppy barely has time to catch her breath, let alone seriously question if all this is too good to be true. Drew is enamored, devoted, and, okay, a little mysterious—but that’s part of the thrill. What’s the harm in letting his past remain private?

Maybe he’s not the only one…

Fortunately, Drew never seems to wonder why his young wife has so readily agreed to their unusual pact to live only in the here and now and not probe their personal histories. Perhaps he assumes, as others do, that she is simply swept up in the intoxication of infatuation and sudden wealth. What’s the harm in letting them believe that?

How far will they go to keep the past buried?

Isolated in Drew’s sprawling mansion, Poppy starts to have time to doubt the man she’s married, to wonder what in his past might be so terrible that it can’t be spoken of, to imagine what harm he might be capable of. She doesn’t want this dream to shatter. But Poppy may soon be forced to confront the dark truth that there are sins far more dangerous than the sin of omission…

This was a quick, absorbing read. I really wanted to know what was going on, because clearly something was off with Poppy’s husband, so I was frustrated at times with what felt like contrived ways to withhold information from Poppy/the reader, but it worked because I kept reading!

I had to suspend my disbelief in this one but when I did that, I was able to get into it and enjoy seeing how it all played out. This was a fun, if occasionally frustrating, read.

three-half-stars

She Lies In Wait

She Lies In WaitShe Lies In Wait

By Gytha Lodge

Series: DCI Jonah Sheens #1
Source Library

Published by Random House
on January 8, 2019

four-stars

On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and the youngest of the group—Aurora Jackson—is delighted to be allowed to tag along. The evening starts like any other—they drink, they dance, they fight, they kiss. Some of them slip off into the woods in pairs, others are left jealous and heartbroken. But by morning, Aurora has disappeared. Her friends claim that she was safe the last time they saw her, right before she went to sleep. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found.

Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers—including Aurora—personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead, and all of them profoundly changed forever.

This was a really good, twisty procedural that kept me guessing. I really liked the team of detectives, and also the way the narrative moved back and forth in time, showing events leading up to Aurora’s death, and the detectives investigating what happened that night. 

I also liked that we got to see the present-day group of friends from the night in question. It kept me guessing about what really happened the night Aurora died. 

I quite liked this and as soon as I finished, I put a hold on the next in the series at my library!

four-stars

Harrow Lake

Harrow LakeHarrow Lake

By Kat Ellis

Source Purchased

Published by Penguin
on July 9, 2020

four-stars

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .

I had been looking forward to reading this book since I first heard of it, and when my preorder arrived in my Kobo library, I put my other books down so I could start this one right away!

This was a really good, tense YA thriller with touches of horror. I loved the atmosphere and reading this on a rainy evening certainly helped ratchet up the creepy vibes!

To me, this was more of a thriller/psychological thriller than horror, but I liked the sense of uncertainty and menace that permeated the story. Who could Lola trust? What could she believe about her family? What was really going on in this strange little town? And the whole Mr. Jitters thing was delightfully creepy!

Despite a few unanswered questions in the end, I quite liked this one!

four-stars

Home Before Dark

Home Before DarkHome Before Dark

By Riley Sager

Source Purchased

Published by Dutton Books
on June 30, 2020

four-stars

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

I was so excited to read this! I have enjoyed Riley Sager’s book, and when I read this premise, I knew I had to read this one too. It gave off a Night Film vibe, which guaranteed that I would pick up a copy.

I ended up reading this book in about a day. It was such a fun read, and I just love stories about spooky houses. As you can expect in a Riley Sager book, things are not as they seem and the story takes a lot of twists and turns, which kept me engrossed in the story. 

The ending felt somewhat rushed to me, but I definitely enjoyed reading this one. This is a great summer read!

four-stars

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