Why I prefer eGalleys over ARCs

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As a book reviewer, I read a lot of books before they’re released. It’s more than just getting books before they’re released. It’s about reading some great reads, sharing your thoughts, and hopefully helping the rest of the community pick that book as a favorite.

Recently there has been some controversy over the number of ARCs publishers hand out. If you weren’t aware, ARCs (or advanced reader copies) are pretty expensive and limited. They are also uncorrected proofs, so what you read isn’t what you’re going to get in the final product. Also, there are some arbitrary rules around owning ARCs because the book isn’t finished. For one, you can’t sell them, you can’t quote them, you can’t do anything other than read them.

So why do people read them and covet them?

For some it’s definitely about the bragging rights. Being given a book well before it’s released is like watching the series finale of Friends before it aired. You have this thing that no one else can have and only a few chosen have received. It’s a pretty cool sight.

For most, it’s a book that you’re excited to read and can’t wait to see what it’s about.

However, what I’ve been seeing lately are ARCs being sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars. That’s ridiculous! First off, you’re not supposed to sell these ARCs because they’re not the final product. Second, ARCs are a cost on the publisher’s dime. The author doesn’t make any money and you’re basically pirating a book for way more than its cover cost on the date of publication. Is it worth it to read the next installment of your favorite Fantasy series at $500 a pop?

So publishers have been pulling back on who exactly they hand these ARCs out to. I don’t know what goes into the request process, but I do know that publishers are looking for bloggers who specifically review books, they have a large following, and their interest is in reading books and not hawking them for way more than they’re physically worth.

Over the past year of reading ARCs for publishers, I found that eGalleys are way better than physical ARCs. This is a PDF file of the book you’re requesting instead of an actual copy of the book. Yes, physical copies of a book are better for holding and annotating and even taking photos of, but what do you do with those ARCs after you’re done? What if you don’t like the book?

In the controversy over ARCs, I would much prefer reading the digital version of the book. eGalleys are easily downloaded to my e-reader of choice, I can remove them from my reader once I’m done and I don’t have yet another book on my TBR pile staring at me every night.

The controversy over selling ARCs is also diminished when you have a digital version of it. I don’t think publishers do this, but they can easily lock their books or have them on a timer to expire after a certain time. This way, the book will never be sold, copied, or even unread.

Another really great reason is because sites like Edelweiss or NetGalley doesn’t require you to write that marketing letter about how great you are and send them to publishers. Of course there are books that aren’t being put on these galley sites, but they do have a mass majority of the ones the publishers are excited about reading.

And if I really loved the book, I can wait until it comes out and own the hardback. You would have two copies of the book for the price of one.

I find this to be a much more efficient way to read these advanced books without having to keep physical copies around. Naturally, I still love receiving ARCs and also love the amount of work and effort marketing teams put into creating these books. However, I really love being able to quickly request a book on NetGalley. It has all my credentials and it updates it while my social media grows. The publishers can see all of that and make the decision to approve or deny me a copy of the galley. It’s so easy and so perfect that it rarely matters to me if I get the actual book.

Even with photography, I’ve stylized my eGalleys with books so that it looks a little bit prettier and the results have been pretty successful in the past.

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I know many of you will disagree with me here, but you have to admit that eGalleys are just more convenient than the actual ARC sometimes. Perhaps I’m more pragmatic than the normal book reader. Also, I’ve basically given up on emailing publishers and will take what I can get.

Words Between Worlds Book Club

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Hey readers!

I just wanted to take a moment to shamelessly plug this new book club that I’m help running with my online friends. It’s called Words Between Worlds.

The club will be focusing on diverse reads because this is a theme that all of us share in common. We love reading diverse books and for many reasons. For some it’s to learn more about a culture they didn’t know before. For others it’s to learn more about themselves and their own voices.

The one thing I like to always consider is how reading and diverse books create empathy. We all live in a bubble and that’s not entirely a bad thing. We live our lives. We have our families and we have our responsibilities. Some people’s bubbles are wider and lets them travel all around the world to see new things and experience different cultures and people. Other people’s bubbles are smaller and that allows them to live comfortably and focus on what matters most to them.

For those who aren’t able to travel all around the world, there really isn’t any way to find out about what’s going on than to read. You’re either reading the news or in books, but you want to expand your bubble and read a lot more. I think it’s always great to take a journey outside of your comfort zone and open your heart to read about something you’re not used to reading.

That’s why we started this club. We are an eclectic group of people from all over the place and we want to share our thoughts and stories with everyone else. It’s a safe environment to share these thoughts and even if you may not relate to the culture or to the people, there’s always something more to learn.

I do hope you join us! You can find more info on our Goodreads page and we’ll also be posting your photos to our Instagram. Let’s get to reading more words between worlds!

Unpopular Opinion (Valentine’s Day Edition): I have read 50 Shades of Grey twice

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A photo to document my reading of 50 Shades the first time

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I’m not a big Valentine’s Day celebrator, but I know many of you love the day of Love, so I hope you have a wonderful one.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to write a little bit about a very famous book series that is finally playing its final film in theaters right now. I’m talking about 50 Shades of Grey.

I know the title of this post will give me away, but I have to be honest with you and tell you that I have read the entire 50 Shades of Grey series twice. Sigh. Please don’t hate me.

I first read the series a few years back as a treat for my birthday. I wanted to have a guilty pleasure read and I hadn’t read the series before, so I decided I would give it a go and see if it was as good (or as bad) as the hype was saying. Turns out, it was both.

I loved that it was terrible. I  honestly think that this is the reason why I continued to read it at first. I thought that it was crap and that the sex was not believable and the relationship between Ana and Christian was this super toxic one.

However, the biggest driver of my love of this series was the fact that I wanted to learn more about Christian Grey. If you weren’t aware, Christian Grey is a person who was abandoned by his mother at a very young age. He was abused by his mother’s pimp and his mother was also a drug addict. He lived in a crack house and after his mother died, the doctor treating his mother decided to take him in. He was extremely lucky as an abandoned child to meet his forever mother in a hospital waiting room.

When I read a story like that, I get curious. I want to know more about Christian and how he went from being a poor orphan to a super rich deviant (“I make $100,000 an hour,” is a line from the book on his salary). Why is he the way he is? Will they go more into this as the story unfolds? What kind of growth do I expect to see from someone as terrible as Christian Grey?

These were some questions floating around in my head after I finished the first one. Also, the first one leaves you on this massive cliffhanger and I needed to see what happened in the second one to ease my curious mind.

Sadly, you don’t really learn more about Christian Grey, but you do see him grow. From being the man who can barely stand a woman’s touch, he falls in love with Ana and ends up marrying her. It’s such a beautiful story, but when the writing and the writer aren’t the strongest, it becomes a story much more difficult to appreciate because of those glaring flaws.

However, that’s not the reason why I read it the second time. The second time I read it was when I went to go see the movies for the first time. I had seen both in the theaters and after watching both, I felt this compulsion to read the books again. I honestly don’t know really why I wanted to read it again other than the fact that it was such a guilty pleasure.

And I know that many of you will still be weirded out by the fact that I watched the movies more than once and read the books twice, but I really loved how brainless these books were. When you read a lot of serious novels about serious subjects, you want to escape that for a while. For me, I tend to read trashy romance novels with poorly depicted images of a very misunderstood subculture. Do I feel shame in this? Not really. Because I like what I like and it made me happy to read about Christian and Ana and eventually what happens to them.

And my inner goddess agrees.

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

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“A novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.” – E. L. Doctorow

I didn’t know much about Forough Farrokhzad. I’ve actually never heard the name before, but when I received this book from Netgalley, I was interested in reading the life of a poet and how that life can be fictionalized to tell the tale. I didn’t know that fiction was really the only way you can tell her story.

Here’s more about the book

All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh is told that Iranian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds ways to rebel—gossiping with her sister among the fragrant roses of her mother’s walled garden, venturing to the forbidden rooftop to roughhouse with her three brothers, writing poems to impress her strict, disapproving father, and sneaking out to flirt with a teenage paramour over café glacé. It’s during the summer of 1950 that Forugh’s passion for poetry really takes flight—and that tradition seeks to clip her wings.

Forced into a suffocating marriage, Forugh runs away and falls into an affair that fuels her desire to write and to achieve freedom and independence. Forugh’s poems are considered both scandalous and brilliant; she is heralded by some as a national treasure, vilified by others as a demon influenced by the West. She perseveres, finding love with a notorious filmmaker and living by her own rules—at enormous cost. But the power of her writing grows only stronger amid the upheaval of the Iranian revolution.

Inspired by Forugh Farrokhzad’s verse, letters, films, and interviews—and including original translations of her poems—Jasmin Darznik has written a haunting novel, using the lens of fiction to capture the tenacity, spirit, and conflicting desires of a brave woman who represents the birth of feminism in Iran—and who continues to inspire generations of women around the world.

I absolutely adored this book and even though it’s 416 pages, I finished it in a day and a half. The story follows loosely the real life of an Iranian poet named Forough Farrokhzad. She was a rebel in a world where women weren’t allowed to be rebellious. She was the embodiment of liberal thought living amongst people who would prefer women to raise families and be obedient. She had a voice in a place where women were told to remain silent.

I didn’t know much about her and if you try to Google Forough Farrokhzad, there really isn’t much about her there either. Jasmin Darznik believed the only way to tell the story of this famous female poet was through fiction. By adapting her voice and her thoughts, Darznik was able to bring to life a person who’s very own tragically ended too soon.

In the author’s notes (which I strongly encourage you to read), Darznik explains her process and how fiction felt like the only way to tell this story. I couldn’t agree with her more and even though there are some events that are completely fictionalized, you can’t tell where the line crosses. You don’t care if the line crosses because even if it isn’t real, it felt real. Even if what Forough went through didn’t happen, you can see it happening for thousands of women living in Iran during this time period.

I had to repeatedly remind myself that this is fiction. This is loosely based on her life and the history of Iran during the 1950s and 1960s. This had some factual evidence, but for the most part, it wasn’t real. But it read so real. Using the first person POV, I feel like Darznik was able to embody Forough for little bit and I was able to hear her story told to me first hand. Even though I was reading words, I felt like I was listening to a story. I sat with my hands grasped at my mouth happy and sad and angry and relieved and eventually heartbroken by the story being told.

This book does carry a lot of triggers. There’s a lot of pain and suffering. Even though Forough was considered one of Iranian’s best poets, she had her fair share of tough times. But her strength felt like a solider who kept on fighting. Her poetry was her weapon and the words were her cunning blows. There were parts that made me want to cry while I read about Forough’s lust for freedom. I shook my fists when she was brutally beaten by her own father and when she was forced into an insane asylum. I raged at how women were treated in Iran through the vicarious point of view of our main character.

I can probably go on about how lovely the writing is here. Darznik is truly a gifted writer who is able to embody her characters. There were quotes for days in this book. If I could, I would highlight passages that resonated so much to me. The book also includes poems from Forough relating back to the passage you read. Reading her poetry alongside her story was so well thought out and structured. It was like you just witnessed genius happen in front of you. That might be an over-exaggerated statement, but I loved this book.

I’ve always been a believer that you can learn things from fiction. You can get caught up in facts and figures and analyze any text, but when you use fiction as your arsenal you can tap into the raw emotions and grab the reader in a different way. You get the perspective of a person or people from a source you can’t get from non-fiction or from the Internet. Forough’s life in this book is an example of that.

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 13, 2018)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Buy Song of a Captive Bird on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

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An epic fantasy with daring sword fights, magic spells, but no prince in disguise. This is a book you’ll want to read, fall in love with, and hopefully see it turn into a movie.

Here’s what it’s about

32718027Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

It’s kind of tough for me to put into words how much I liked this book. While it did have its flaws and it wasn’t the most perfect read, I still enjoyed it. I wanted to read this book in particular because it takes place in the Middle East and that’s one of the areas I wanted to focus reading this year.

From the synopsis of this book, you would think that this is a simple tale about a young woman who finds herself in a magical universe right in the middle of Cairo. However, this book is way more than what this story tells you. The book is deeply steeped in Middle Eastern culture, folklore, history, and there is also some hints at Islam as well.

In its essence, this is a book about the power struggle between two tribes of the Daeva. One group called the daeva believe in the power of fire while the other group, the djinn, don’t. This division between the two groups of people causes for some massive political and social issues amongst the people. Let’s not even get into the half-human born folks that live in Daevabad as well.

What I personally loved was Nahri. She’s a daeva born into the human world and lived on the streets her entire life. She’s a thief and a liar and she knows nothing about the powers she possesses aside from the occasional wound healing very quickly. When she summons Dara, her Afshin, he whisks her away to the world she belongs.

As you can see, there’s obviously some issues with someone who grew up in the human world coming to a world made up of magical beings. This goes double for someone who can heal and bring something to the world that’s been missing for a few years.

I loved reading this part of the book because you get to learn about these worlds alongside Nahri. You get to see her thoughts and how she reacts and her reactions were completely natural.

The epic battles throughout the story were also well created and thought out. I can see the fights in my head between the people and the emotions were definitely prevalent in the reads. These were some of the parts that really drew me into the story, made me care about these characters, and eventually made me want to read more.

It took me a while to get right into the book mostly because the world building was a little off. SA Chakraborty would explain a concept of the daevas or the djinn to you, which was a little confusing. However, then you see Nahri ask the same questions you asked yourself and suddenly everything makes sense.

Nahri and Dara don’t arrive in Daevabad until halfway through the book. In my opinion, I feel like it should have been sooner so that we can learn alongside Nahri all the little details about the world. I had to do a lot of googling to understand the certain weapons they used, the origins of the djinn and daevas (there’s an origin and you can look it up!), and even some of the Arabic phrases she threw in there every once in a while.

There is also an issue with the wording of things. Whenever Chakraborty introduced a new point in the plot, it was really confusing and I needed to read it a few times over to understand it. It may have been the way I was reading, but it definitely threw me off and pulled my final star. Even though the world building was a little confusing for me, it was immediately nullified by the elaborate writing, the action and adventure of it all, and reading about a world that I don’t regularly read.

The end of the book got me hooked and I will admit, I shed a few tears. I know this is the first book from a debut author with another book in this series coming soon. The first books are always the toughest, but if they grab you enough, then you’ll definitely want to read the second. I will definitely be looking out for the second book in the future.

  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager
  • Rating: 4/5 stars
  • Buy The City of Brass on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

 

 

Book of the Month February 2018 Book Haul

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I always love the beginning of the month because that means I’ll be picking out and sharing my reads from Book of the Month. As everyone knows, I’m a huge fan of this subscription. Even though I’m pretty broke lately, I’m still picking out books for my Book of the Month. I shouldn’t even be buying more books, if I admit.

But I’ve got my latest box and I can’t wait to read both of these books. Here’s a little more about each.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This novel was just announced as Oprah’s official February pick for the Oprah Book Club. If Oprah is approving it, then I’m definitely reading it. However, I picked the book before the announcement was made, so maybe I just have the same taste as Oprah does. Here’s more about it:

33590210Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I’ve been a fan of Kristin Hannah’s ever since I read The Nightingale a few years ago. That book was an incredible read about two sisters fighting their own battles throughout World War II. The ending made me sob like a baby while I was sitting on the subway. You have to give a book props for making me cry. I don’t cry easy.

34912895Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.

Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah has delivered an enormously powerful story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable and enduring strength of women. About the highest stakes a family can face and the bonds that can tear a community apart, this is a novel as spectacular and powerful as Alaska itself. It is the finest example of Kristin Hannah’s ability to weave together the deeply personal with the universal. 

What did you get this month in your Book of the Month Club box?

Why I Sometimes See the Movie Before I Read the Book

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My friend, Michaela, at The Ardent Biblio recently talked about reading War and Peace for the first time. If you aren’t aware, War and Peace is considered one of the best books of all time written by the most prolific writers, Leo Tolstoy.

However, it was originally written in Russian, is over 1400 pages long, and it takes place during the Franco-Russian War. Unless you’re actually studying the text, there aren’t many people who decide to pick this book and read it. And if you do decide to read it, there’s a lot of families, a lot of names, and a lot of important moments you have to remember.

But a copy of the book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I even dedicated some time to read Anna Karenina (Tolstoy’s other epic classic) a few years back only to stop reading it one day and never picked it back up.

When it comes to books like this, I’m immediately intimidated. I felt the same way about Game of Thrones when the show first came out. I was weary with reading the novel because of all the characters, the places, and the events you had to remember. I think this is one of the many reasons why I put off reading War and Peace.

Today just happened to be the day I decided I will read it. I know that some of this influence does come from Michaela, but the other part comes from the fact that I’m currently watching the TV adaptation of the book. Here’s a trailer below:

So you must be angry at me for watching the BBC version of this show rather than reading the actual novel. Don’t worry, I will definitely read the novel in time. I just would rather watch the show first before diving into the book.

But why?

I think we’ve come to a day and age where reading classics (or some more difficult fantasy novels) has become easier. Aside from the myriad of translations you can choose from (definitely check out The Ardent Biblio post about it above), many of the beloved classics from yesteryear are now available on TV. Movies and retellings and mini-series have been made in abundance for so many classic books. I remember the day I watched all of the BBC Pride and Prejudice and after watching the epic mini-series, I decided to read the book. I read Little Women after watching the 1995-film version with Winona Ryder for the millionth time.

Similarly to many other books I come across, I always have a tough time with visualizing characters and people. With a ton of names and events, it’s hard to keep track of them all. I always find myself flipping from the front of the book and the family tree and the index back to the page I was reading. God forbid the author doesn’t even give you that! Even when the novel is simpler, I always find myself using some actor or actress I feel is appropriate for the main character instead of dreaming up someone in my head. I should have gone into casting or something for these movies.

What watching the show does is allow me to visualize what may have been more difficult without. I’m able to see who exactly is Pierre and Andrei and Natasha and all the others. I can see them in my head and when I read the book I can use that to help shape the story. When I go to the book later on, I’ll be able to read with those characters in mind and be able to visualize the nuances of their emotions and reactions.

I’m also able to visualize the story. You may think that this will spoil a novel for me, but it doesn’t. When a book is as popularized to make a movie, I feel like the spoilers are gone. You already know what’s going to happen or you can read about them online. But the visualization of the story allows me to follow along and understand the bigger events that happen.

Of course you’re not going to get the whole book in the show. If anything, the shows and movies provide a bone structure for you to go back and read the book and fill in the muscle and the tissue. A movie without the book isn’t the same as the movie with the book. You get to a battle scene with its gore and guns and fighting and for some reason these scenes have always been really tough for me to envision in my head. Instead, I get this battle scene played out for me and I can go back later and fill in the gaps I missed about that scene.

The last added bonus of watching the movie before reading the book is that you’re never disappointed. I’ve read books before watching the movie and felt the upset of it not being true to the film. I’ve seen movies that were even better than the book and that annoys me to no end as well. Watching the movie before the book sets me up for good reading with well-crafted scenes and if the adaptation is really good, it can really blow the book out of the water (but that’s a post for another time).

Y’all probably hate me now because I do this weird method of watching the adaptation before reading the book, but for some reason it’s worked for me. I’ve been able to really enjoy some of my favorite classics because I was able to watch them played out like this. It’s also great when the people who made the movie put in the extra work to make it incredible. With an adaptation like War and Peace, there’s a lot of ground to cover in more than just three hours. I mean, look at what happened with the Lord of the Rings movies.