Controversial opinion: My thoughts on ARCs.

So Harper Voyager dropped a UK Arc of DarkDawn recently and it got me thinking about ARC’s. I wanted to come at this purely from a Book Blogger perspective as obviously I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes in publishing. I can only see what publishers, authors, booksellers etc openly tweet about so this is definitely more an opinion piece than a factual look at the situation.

Arcs are pretty coveted commodity within the book community and I think we all know this. ARC’s in theory have two purposes – marketing for the book through giveaways, photos, unboxings etc and increasing awareness through reviews and word of mouth recommendation.

ARC’s also act as payment. Bookbloggers get literally nothing for their time but the book they are being asked to market/review. Sometimes this is a finished copy and sometimes this is an ARC. An entire community of free marketers, publicists and consumers that exists around books and the only thing we get for the hours of reading, writing and photography is the book itself. It’s nice to get something tangible to keep for all those hours.

I think the black market that has sprung up around ARC’s changed the game. People didn’t just want ARC’s to read, but also to collect or trade and even sell. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to trade ARC’s (I’ve done it myself) but something that was already pretty sought after has become a hugely valuable commodity and now even more difficult to get.

I think now there is bad feeling and in-fighting within the book community over who gets ARC’s, why and what they end up doing with them. People hate people who request ARC’s to trade them later. People don’t like it when others use their status to get access to ARC’s to trade whilst people with less followers who would love the book are getting ignored. No one likes seeing bigger accounts getting thrown ARC’s everyday and when you know they can’t read them all.

I think something needs to change.

With the amount of ARC’s that end up for sale on ebay, it is pretty clear that more care needs to be taken when choosing who gets a copy. Huge bookstagram accounts and bloggers with massive followings shouldn’t be just getting thrown ARC’s of books they didn’t even know existed.

I can definitely understand some book bloggers frustration with the situation.

For example with the DarkDawn UK ARC, that is a hugely anticipated release and you know people will be dying to get their hands on it for whatever reason. TO BE CLEAR I love Harper Voyager. I’ve been dying to get on their blogger list for years, they pretty much publish all my favourite books. However I didn’t think it was fair to post a photo of a hugely sought after ARC and follow up immediately with “Proofs are rarer than Hen’s teeth. So don’t even try it”. If they aren’t publicly available then don’t publicly announce it? It also didn’t help seeing someone who works for Harper Voyager ask for one and immediately get told it’s on it’s way. I’m not saying this person shouldn’t get one but maybe do it in a less public way?

Situations like this can be a bit of a slap in the face. From a blogger’s perspective the ONE thing we get as some sort of payment/reward whatever for our work is the very book we talk about. No one likes to feel under valued and it feels like book bloggers are at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to getting ARC’s.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

P.S I obviously can’t speak for all bloggers and I don’t think I’m trying to, so if you’re opinion is different that’s totally cool. Arcs aren’t hugely important to me, I’ve requested a fair few and received a few and I don’t really collect them unless the cover is gorgeous. I read what I can when I can and I always make sure to take a photo for the gram.

Blog Tour Book Review: Skylarks by Karen Gregory

Today it’s my stop on the bookstagram tour for Skylarks. I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was so happy to be asked to take part in my first tour and I hope you pick up this book.

Synopsis

When she was little, Joni used to have dreams that she could fly. But these days her feet are firmly on the ground – they have to be when money’s tight and her dad can’t work and the whole family has to pull together to keep afloat.

Then she meets Annabel. Annabel is everything Joni isn’t, and yet there’s a spark between them. Though Joni barely believes it at first, she thinks they might be falling in love.

But when Annabel’s parents find out about the relationship, it’s clear they believe there are some differences that are impossible to overcome.

My thoughts..

Skylarks is a bitter sweet, coming of age, contemporary romance novel that tells the story of two girls from seemingly opposite worlds, learning they have a lot more in common than they would have thought. I don’t usually read contemporary fiction, but I’m glad I decided to step outside of my comfort zone for this book. I found Skylarks has a certain charm and I could not put it down, to the point I was literally reading it in the street walking home.

While I felt like this book was at times too black and white, there was a lot of uncomfortable truths in the portrayal of Joni and her life. I think Joni’s frustrations and feelings towards Annabel’s privileged life are relatable even for those not in Joni’s circumstances. On the other hand it is easy to assume that someone with lots of money must be happy, that they lead carefree lives without the burden of worrying about money. This book showed the prejudices that can exist on both sides.

Where this book dropped a few stars for me was in the cliched portrayal of the rich girl who can’t cook and loves to ride horses and the poor girl who doesn’t want charity and is not at all embarrassed about where she comes from. Often times Annabel and Joni felt like caricatures, as the story strayed into all too familiar and often stereotypical territory. Joni had siblings, Annabel was an only child. Joni’s house was filled with happy pictures of family times despite being poor, Annabel’s house only had super snazzy posed family photos. Annabel’s family was obsessed with grades and coming first, Joni’s parents just wanted her to do her best.

Despite this the portayal of Joni, her life and insecurities was in many aspects painfully real. This book was bitter sweet for me as even though it is in a way a light and flurry romance, it goes some way as serving as a reminder that their are real people, who are living Joni’s life and that their ending is not always so happy.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: The Goodnight Kiss by Jennifer L. Hart

Synopsis

A teenage serial killer with a mysterious past.
The deadly hunter sworn to protect her.
Secrets, lies and a shot at redemption.
It all begins with a kiss.

When 16-year-old Nic Rutherford heads out for a night on the town, she brings a full arsenal. Her best weapon? A deadly kiss that can take down the biggest game around—humans. Two-legged predators don’t stand a chance once she makes lip to skin contact. But her blessing is also a curse, one that Nic fears will inadvertently harm anyone who gets too close—her aunts, her best friend, or the mysterious new boy who possesses strange abilities of his own. 

Aiden Jager has the one thing Nic can’t resist—information. With his help Nic begins to unearth answers about her own murky past along with the key to a hidden world where magic thrives and the impossible becomes reality if one is willing to pay the ultimate price. Beware, for once the door is opened, there is no turning back.

My thoughts..

This story is a dark urban fantasy about a girl called Nic who can kill people by kissing them. Nic has appointed herself judge, jury and executioner over the local murderers, rapists etc for reasons unknown and with the help of her two aunts she kills them. Nic’s life is a mystery, she was adopted by two women who clearly aren’t what they pretend to be. There are a thousand different questions that this book raises and just when one question is answered you find you have more. I think that is what kept me reading until the end. I wanted to know who Nic was and what the hell was going on.

The main thing I struggled with in this book was the rather unusual blend of Norse and Greek Mythology mixed together with folktales and faeries. This is very confused by the fact the book is set in the real world, so you have an old Norse god running around after a teenage girl/faerie queen who kills people by kissing them. This teenage girl is looked after by her “Aunties” who are two of the three fates, but also vets in their spare time. All these aspects together just didn’t blend as seamlessly into one story as I would have liked.

Whilst this mix of Nordic mythology and folklore isn’t my cup of tea particularly, I think this book is perfect for people who loved the darker sides of those stories. This book has all the gritty realism of domestic violence and back-alley rapists but with a land of Giants and fae magic. What I loved most about this book was all the faerie aspects, The Seelie and UnSeelie Courts and The Wild Hunt.

This story is a strange and winding journey through familiar mythological and folklore territory that makes it unique. This book twists and turns a lot and while it is unfortunately mainly fuelled by every character being deliberately vague and unhelpful, is still is an entertaining and interesting read. I really liked the developing relationship between Aiden and Nic and the past histories that are being explored and explained between the characters. I’m looking forward to the next book and seeing more of the fae world that I love.

**I was given an eArc of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own**

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

 

Book Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Synopsis

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

My thoughts..

“Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones”

This book was in short easy, easy to read, easy to understand, easy to guess what would happen next. This book lacked all the depth, world-building and characterisation of Game of Thrones. Every plot twist could be easily anticipated pages before, the dialogue felt shallow, the secrets and intrigue easy to guess. It was in every way a cliche young adult fantasy. I’ve seen a debate before that young adult doesn’t mean the story is dumber or simplified but contrast this book to A song of Ice and Fire and that’s exactly what you get. There was no complexity, no tension, no depth to the characters.

I wanted to like this book but it wasn’t offering anything new. Three Kingdoms really basically described, two really hate each other and another one is impoverished because magic is disappearing. A really shoddily put together political situation of a princess and lord murdering a peasant over wine prices that acts as the catalyst for the ensuing warring. In terms of characters you have the princess who wants to marry for love and has no interest in ruling so of course what happens to her? The drunkenly lord who loves to “lord” it over and is quickly made into the creepy villain of the book. You have the cold, evil King who treats his son like dirt but the son still wants to impress him. That same son who has learnt to survive by pretending not to care etc etc.

The only reason that you would compare this series to Game of Thrones is the random deaths. The deaths in Game of Thrones add an element of realism with their brutality and swift nature. The deaths in this series are random and you don’t care because the characters where only introduced two seconds ago.

I thought long and hard about finishing this book but I’ve read it all before. I was told it gets better and the second book is way better than the first but I know me and this book will never see eye to eye.

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The Farseer Trilogy consists of the Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassins Quest and follows a young royal bastard called FitzChivalry. The books starts with Fitz being given to the royal family  by his Grandfather who tells them that the heir to the throne Chivalry is the father. Consequently Chivalry abdicates the throne to his younger brother Verity because of the issues he has created with the line of succession and leaves Fitz in the care of Burrich, his stablemaster and friend.

I’m going to try to be as coherent as possible with how much I loved these books and my reasons as to why. I could easily go on a fangirl filled rant but instead I’ve tried to order my thoughts into different overall reasons so that they make more sense to you. Hopefully after reading this you will also pick up this series as I think they are a must read for any fantasy lover.

The World

The history, the lore, the magic, the politics all give these books a depth few books ever achieve. I never felt like there was information I was lacking because the author hadn’t thought about it, I knew I was learning with the character and there would always be more to learn. You can really see the amount of thought and care that went into writing these books. These three books clearly only scratch the surface of what this world has to offer as there are several more trilogies set in the same universe.

Fitz

You read about Fitz from him being six years old to adulthood and by the end I loved him. I loved his character so much I began to hate all the side characters around him for what they ask of him and the sacrifices they expect him to give. Fitz’s journey is a brutal one, he goes through a hell of a lot in these books and you can’t help but feel for him. He has abandonment issues, anger issues and self-esteem issues, he often makes decisions with his heart instead of his brain and will do anything to serve his king including kill people.

The side characters

No one in this book is perfect and as much as I hated it as far as Fitz was concerned I also loved it too. Each character has their own trials and pain to deal with and while the focus is on Fitz you get a real insight into the other character’s lives and feelings. They are each flawed and damaged in their own way. It feels like they have all the depth and feeling of the main protagonist, the book just happens to be from Fitz’s point of view. I think this is important in a book as too often side characters are one-dimensional placeholders that serve a particular purpose and are then discarded.

The Wit

The Wit is basically a magical connection to animals, think like a familiar. The Wit is an old magic that you are born with which basically allows you to communicate, understand and bond with an animal. I loved this magic not only because of the communicating with animals because of how it was viewed by other people. “Beast magic” IS NOT an accepted thing in this world and it’s interesting to read why that is. I personally love the idea of being bonded to an animal so this branch of magic was really fun to read.

The closest comparison I can make for these books is Game of Thrones without all the explicit sexual stuff and less torture and messed up deaths/punishments. This trilogy did get a bit weird towards the end I freely admit but I think that often can happen in fantasy when magic is involved. I only had one issue with the end and that was how Fitz was..let’s say used for want of a better term. I won’t say anymore but you readers probably know what I’m talking about.

I definitely recommend these books if you’re a fantasy reader looking for something more adult.

 

When reading books isn’t fun anymore..

We’ve all been there, we have all hit that reading slump at one point or another. This might look different to different people but the feeling is the same. It may be you are procrastinating on starting your next book, or struggling to finish your latest read, or it could be every book you are picking up isn’t capturing your interest.

For me these are all symptoms of feeling pressured to read.

This may be because you need new content for your blog or bookstagram, it could be because you set yourself a target of reading so many books a month or this year, you might have accepted one too many review requests or requested too many ARC’s on Netgalley etc. Whatever the cause when you make reading into a job you feel you have to do it stops being fun and starts being work.

For me I hit the slump when I borrowed four books I wanted to read from the library, bought another book in a series I wanted to finish and had three ARC’s to read. This was something I brought on myself, nobody forced me to request ARCs or buy more books,  but either way I wound up putting off books I wanted to read for books I felt obligated to read. The ARC I decided to read just wasn’t interesting me, it wasn’t a boring book but I just couldn’t get into it, but I felt bad for moving on or leaving it particularly with the publication date so close.

So I began to put off reading, which left me with less and less content for my Instagram and less reviews to publish here, which in turn made me feel more pressured to read but I just wasn’t interested in the book that I had started and didn’t feel I could move on to something else.

It was then I decided to write this blog post just in case anyone else has felt the same way and like me isn’t sure what to do about it.

My advice which I intend to take for myself is to read what you want for the time being. Don’t put off books you want to read because you feel like you HAVE to read something else. If you don’t review that book in time don’t feel bad about it, and to stop it becoming a habit be more discerning about which ARCS you request or accept. Try not to feel like you need to be reading more and more books for Instagram and your blog either. Fresh content is good but this can be anything not just what you have recently read.

Lastly, remember why you started blogging and reviewing and taking pretty pictures in the first place – because you love to read and don’t let the pressure you put on yourself or from other people ruin it for you.

Let me know what you guys do when you feel like you’re in a slump and don’t know how to get out of it.

Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Synopsis

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most – a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. 
The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavoury hobby – it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good.

But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Publication Date: 6th March 2018

My thoughts…

This book is a darker re-telling of the Little Mermaid and it had lots to offer. To Kill a Kingdom has all the elements of a really good dark fantasy, there’s mermaids and pirates, siren’s ripping out hearts, a Sea Queen reminiscent of Ursula and a hate to love romance. The story was nicely paced and I think it does an excellent job of taking The Little Mermaid and making it darker and grittier than the film we all know and love.

This book held such promise for me but in the end it didn’t quite deliver. For me this book was a little too perfect, every twist and turn wasn’t a surprise, I felt like I was on a road I had travelled before. I didn’t really have any doubt in my mind at where this book was going or how it would end. Everything ended up being a bit too convenient, I could see what the author wanted to achieve, so all the character growth needed to get there felt a bit forced.

In the end Lira and Elian didn’t learn to look past their differences, they were moulded into being the same. I say this particularly for Lira who starts out as this blood-thirsty Siren, but this initial characterisation is proclaimed as false as you get further into the book and it ends up that Lira didn’t want to be that way she felt forced by her mother. For me good characterisation would be if they had both learnt to change, not the reader learning that they aren’t the way initially presented. It was all just a little too neat but this might be because it was a standalone.  

There was a few plot issues, namely Lira’s familiarity with all things human despite being from the sea, she recognised things like the smell of peppermint and honey. Are these common in the ocean? I also had issues with the ending, who goes through the trouble of hiding something as far away from the ocean as you can but then decides to built a moat around/through it? Wasn’t the whole point to be that it was away from water?

This book is by no means boring and for a ya dark fantasy it’s pretty decent. There were just several issues for me that stopped me completely enjoying the book, I didn’t find the banter that witty and there was a lot of it and I felt like the plot was often advanced by people overlooking the glaringly obvious. I know lots of people are going to love this book but I ended up being one of those who only liked it.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

Rating: 3/5 Stars