A couple of months back, I got wind of NetGalley.com, a website through which publishers "provide digital review copies to professional readers, including booksellers, librarians, media, bloggers, reviewers and educators". I shouldn't visit that website, I thought. I'm drowning in books. Even though the review copy stream has slowed down since my original contacts at a few Canadian publishers have left, between library books, Kindle books (DAMN those daily deals, DAMN them!) and books I've bought, the stacks have grown, the queue is alarmingly long, and sometimes it makes me feel a little stressed. Not grateful and happy and excited, the way one SHOULD feel when blessed with this embarrassment of riches, but stressed. For no really good reason, because aside from a course or two, I'm free to read whatever the hell I want, but I definitely wasn't in need of a further source of books. Certainly not one where the requesting and delivering of said books is as easy as a mouse click.
So I definitely didn't go on NetGalley and create a profile and request sixty-six or so books and then feel all giggly and smug when the approvals started rolling in and my Kindle app filled up with YET MORE books. Free books. Books that haven't quite been published yet.
It's true. I have a problem.
Sometimes I get turned down, for one reason or another. I feel unreasonably annoyed by this.
One of the quirks and - sometimes - pleasures of my NetGalley shelf is that, when I click on a book to begin reading it, unless I research it on Goodreads first, I generally have no idea of what I'm about to plunge into. Unless it's an author I already know, there are so many books that I've usually lost all memory of the plot synopsis, and with some titles and covers it's really hard to tell what you're getting into. The first book where this really made me feel like I'd been (in the immortal words of one of my old professors) "led down the garden path and then clobbered with a birdfeeder", was The Quick by Lauren Owen. It starts off like a prim, proper, everything-in-its-place Victorian novel, then takes a whiplash left turn into.... well, it's also one of those books where you can't say much without giving everything away. It was a really interesting reading experience.
Recently, I read in a Book Riot article that The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey was a book that I should read immediately, before more was given away about it. I was giddy with the realization that I had the book from NetGalley RIGHT THAT MINUTE, and it was AWESOME, and I .... can't say a whole lot more about that one either. Except it's so much more than just a book of.... this genre, and I loved the nuanced characters, and the clear-eyed presentation of the human condition, and the perfect, poignant rendering of the child-teacher relationship in extreme circumstances, and if you like books of this genre you should definitely read it, except you don't know if you like books of this genre because I haven't told you which genre it is, because I don't want to give anything away. It's a dilemma. Use your best judgment.
The tagline for reviewing NetGalley books on Goodreads is always "review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review". We'll see how they feel about that when I review Fields of Elysium, because oh, my god, oh, the badness is so bad with this one. It's the worst kind of adolescent wish-fulfillment Twilight rip-off, written by someone whose first language almost certainly isn't English, or reality. There are phrases like "she tossed her head back, burying her hands into her glossy hair in the sexiest way I'd ever seen a girl act. That picture was too much for my eyes. I looked away and bored my eyes into the waterfall." Also, "I had become a ghost, just drifting down the corridors, unnoticed by their Gucci bags and Prada shoes". Aw, their bags and shoes didn't notice you? Stupid unsentient accessories. The requisite situations where the heroine is hurt or put in danger so the hero (who acts like he hates her but of course loves her) can rescue her are cringe-worthy. At one point she blacks out and hits her head on a desk, and then laments the disfiguring scar that will ensure that no man wants her (grow some bangs, duh). The hero visits with some future-world healing ointment, and she piteously requests that he put it on for her because she doesn't have a mirror. That's right - she's too stupid to find her own forehead.
Eve came downstairs a while ago and said "there was this book at school called Jacob's New Dress. Can Jacob be a girl's name?" I said maybe, but maybe it was more about gender roles. We looked it up, and it is, which is cool. She said "like - he's a drag queen?" and I said, no, he just doesn't conform to normal gender stereotypes. She said she was a little surprised that there would be a kids' book about that, and I reminded her about my friend Amanda who has an eleven-year-old transgender daughter, which means that a book explaining gender fluidity to kids is, in my book (ha), a good thing. Then I said "of course, some parents probably won't WANT their kids reading about it", and Eve said "well, tough bananas. It's a thing."