First the stats. So from May 7th to date I’ve received 119 indie book review requests. I’ve accepted a total of 7 of those requests. Still holding steady around a 6% acceptance rate. Same as the last time I posted some numbers in June.
Over these handful of months I’ve picked up a few . . . behaviors that should be curbed when sending me, or any book reviewer/blogger, review requests. You may say I shouldn’t be all high and mighty about this. I’m being offered free books. Just take it. I’m just a blogger. It’s not like you’re a PROFESSIONAL. To that I’d say, if that’s how you think of me and what I do, fuck yourself. I don’t want to read your damn book anyway.
I may not be a professional book reviewer but YOU need to be professional in how you manage business correspondence. If you’re not taking your book seriously, neither will I. Look, I know I’m a tool for you to use. Doesn’t mean I actually want to be treated like one. I’m sure no one does. So take these tips how you will, if at all. Just remember, look at those numbers above. You’re already at a disadvantage. Don’t make it even worse because you can’t be bothered to learn email etiquette.
ADDRESS ME BY NAME.
Hell, I’ll even just take a greeting. No name even necessary. Just whatever you do, don’t call me by my goddamn blog’s name. My blog is not a sentient being. It’s a website. So when you call be Lit Bites, ONE, you don’t even know what the name of my website is, and TWO, you just ensured that I skim through your email and send you a decline. Doubly so if you’re trying to be cute and quirky in your email and show that you read some of my reviews or whatever.
MY WEBSITE IS NOT CALLED LIT BITES.
MY NAME IS NOT LIT BITES. OR BITES.
DON’T ATTACH ANYTHING.
I mean anything. I’m not going to open it. Other people may feel differently about this, but especially if it’s the entire book, no. You’re being presumptuous when you do that and it’s a turn-off. In this world of computer viruses, hold off on attaching anything, even if it’s promotional material, unless the person you’re sending the request to accepts it.
MAKE SURE IT FITS MY READING GUIDELINES.
Some of the random book review requests I get, I’m just like, did you even read the guidelines? Probably not because I don’t actually care about your non-fiction book on a particular bird species. Thanks, though.
INCLUDE A BOOK BLURB.
You’d think this would be a given. It is not. Not even close. Put it in the body of the email. Don’t give me links and have me go find it myself. Don’t just point me to where I can find the book, without links, and have me find it myself. Don’t give me just praise for the book. Give me the damn blurb. It should be less than 250 words and copy/paste-able into the body of the email. Not hard. If I can’t figure out what your book is even about, I’m going to pass. And I’m not going to go hunting for it either. Make this easy for me, not a scavenger hunt.
And it goes in the body of the email. Not as an attachment. No attachments unless you have an acceptance.
NO MASS EMAILS.
I know you’re busy and I know this is hard but BCC is a bitch and it’ll almost guarantee you a decline. I know I’m one of many, but don’t rub that fact in my face. Taking those few extra seconds to copy and paste a marketing email and just change out the name can go a long way.
NO-GO FOR MAILING LISTS.
Don’t sign me up for it without my permission. I will just unsubscribe and I won’t look at anything.
Look, I need to actually be able to read your request. If it’s a smash-up of a giant wall of text that looks like you sneezed it out, I’m immediately going to pass. I’m not going to Magic Eye your email in order to decipher what it is you’ve written.
This is specifically for the marketing people/publicists for hire: don’t shot gun a giant book list out and see what sticks. You’re doing a disservice to the authors you represent, especially if that list is little more than two dozen books with elevator pitches, at best. Someone’s not getting their money’s worth out of you. Deleted.
Again, I’m sure some people will think I’m a prima donna or something. I’m really not. I just can’t be bothered with all of this. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that arena.
If you’re trying to pitch me your book to review it means you’re trying to sell it. You have a product, you’re running some level of business, and you’re trying to market it. You need to do it in a way that looks like you actually give a shit, not only about your own product, but about the people whom you’re trying to reach. We’re not throw-aways. We actually do help get the word out there. I’m not saying don’t piss us off or else. I’m just saying you need to be professional with your book.
And don’t turn it on me. This isn’t about me. I’m writing reviews in my pajamas on my own self-hosted WordPress blog. I don’t get paid for what I do and I don’t answer to anyone for what I do. This is not how I make my living. I could stop doing this tomorrow and I would be just fine doing that. I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m not trying to get people to buy my product. I’m not trying to get people to work with me, although I do have people who work with me based on years of rapport and my professional interaction with them.
This is about you. You need to put your best foot forward. I’m just trying to help you do that and trying to eliminate some of these less-than-savory email practices at the same time.
These last couple of weeks I’ve taken a break from review reading because I got married. I needed to eliminate any unnecessary potential stressors for a short amount of time, otherwise I feel I may have lost my mind. If you’re waiting on a review from me, don’t worry. It’s coming. I should be back to my regular reading routine by now.
I think, until after my wedding in September, I’m going to take a break from the online book review request places like NetGalley, Blogging for Books, and wherever else I get my stuff from. I have a pile of eBooks that I’ve been collecting and haven’t made even a speck of a dent in because I put review copies first. And I want to read my own eBooks for a little while. I have some interesting stuff in there!
This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop taking review requests coming into my email. I’m not. I’m just not going to seek out additional books to review right now until I can get some more pleasure reading done. I have enough to worry about right now without having to add self-imposed timelines to my plate. No thanks.
Just to give you an idea of how my indie book review experiment is going, my listing went up on TheIndieReview.com on May 7. Late May 7. From then until this past Sunday, June 26th, (I let the review requests pile up and look them over once a week, makes it easier on me), I’ve received 49 review requests. Roughly 1 per day. I’ve accepted three books to review so far. That’s a 6% acceptance ratio. Better than your average slush pile, but not by much. That doesn’t include anything currently sitting in my inbox to be reviewed and anything sent from the publishers I already have standing relationships with.
Kind of busy over here. And I don’t really accept a lot from the pubs either. I’m finishing up a hard copy book right now from a publisher and I have two eBooks that are waiting for reads that I committed to. So I really don’t take on a lot through email. It’s all that NetGalley browsing and requesting I do. So none of that for a little while.
And believe it or not I’m not behind in posting reviews. On my current reading schedule (at least 50 pages per day for hardcopy books plus at least 25 pages per day for eBooks) it’s just taking me a little while to finish the books I am reading. One’s a history book that’s nearly 500 pages so can you really fault me there? And just by default I read eBooks slower at the rate I’ve paced myself.
Ultimately all is well here. I’m just going to take it on part of my sanity to not bury myself in review books for the time being. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Literally.
Yeah, you read that right.
Considering my ever butt-unclenching stance on self-publishing I’ve decided to open my review policy up to self-pubbed authors again. For full details click on Policy in the menu bar above and see the criteria for consideration.
Just like a review request from anywhere else, if you don’t follow the instructions your review will get deleted unanswered. It’s pretty simple.
Let’s see how this goes.
Here’s the last of it. The seven remaining books that I thought were the best I’ve reviewed in 2014.
Pike likes to up the ante in his books and he doesn’t hold back on my punches, that’s for sure. He gets right down to it in CHAIN LETTER and doesn’t leave anyone behind. Getting a random letter in the mail from someone is creepy enough but having it make demands and then threatening physical harm if they’re not followed through is downright terrifying. Do you ignore it and take the chance? Call the police even though it says not to? Do what it’s asking? We never believed in these things but, you know, JUST IN CASE, we did them anyway because they usually involved some kind of harm to a loved one a la stepping on a crack if we didn’t. But here, with these kids, the letter writer dangled a piece of their history in their faces, rather I Know What You Did Last Summer, just not as slasher-like.
And it’s a good story too. You have Peloquin being Peloquin, shooting first and asking questions later but possibly making a mess for himself further down the road and Shuna who’s on the cusp of having her life thrown into upheaval but especially for her, her in-plot profession lends itself to her character in the movie. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen the movie so I am having a hard time connecting dots that would probably otherwise be obvious if it were fresh in my mind but some things are still there and they’re working out just fine.
Then around page 318 things got exceedingly dark and disturbing and the book started to click. Because I’m apparently sick in the head. I won’t say what happens because I don’t want to ruin anything but I will say it’s uncomfortable to read and if you read it you may need to take a moment to recover from reading it. It’s off. It may give you nightmares. It sure painted one hell of a picture in my head. But it was the clicking point of the story for me. Finally it has a purpose, it has a meaning and damn, it went someplace I had no idea it was going. It freaked me out and I loved it.
Stiefvater throws in a curve ball that may or may not peg you in your face. She shakes these characters’ world like throttling a sapling and I think she may laugh a little while doing it. Any semblance of safety for these characters is gone. Any sense that they’re immune from bad things happening directly to them is shattered. This book is where the quest becomes really real and really dangerous and starts to transcend the Raven Boys and the women of 300 Fox Way. It is MORE and it doesn’t think the world of everyone. And it’ll leave you wanting at the end, feigning the final installment to The Raven Cycle that is so incredibly far away that I may as well start my own search for Glendower because I just might find him sooner.
The story is fantastic and deftly illustrates just what these soldiers went through on the battle field and at home. They didn’t have any support from the American public, they barely had support from their own government (and that’s being generous) and yet they still maintained their will to fight for a country that wanted to hold them down. It’s truly amazing.
The illustrations are great and rather gruesome at times. The book doesn’t shy away from depicting war in all its brutality. I do wish it was colorized, through. There were some panels that were a little hard for me to interpret because the black and white blended together a little too good in some scenes. But overall that did little to detract from the story and getting the full impact of what these men went through.
Really, it was an exciting read. If you have any appreciation at all for history or what could lie under the carpet of a family tree I think you’ll like this book. There’s no doubt in my mind that Robinson knows what he’s talking about and he’s put a painstaking amount of research into writing this book. That much is obvious but it’s not overflowing with research. It blends seamlessly with the story and nothing seems out of place. As Tayte is trying to unravel the mystery on his plate the true story (within the context of the book) is played out in alternating chapters. I kind of wanted to shout at the book as I read a vital piece of information from the old timeline that Tayte was still trying to uncover. I was at work so that didn’t happen.
I like Miriam. I do. She’s stubbornly imperfect and makes mistakes that she quickly regrets but she’s also pretty accepting of fate. She’s mostly consigned to the fact that it is what it is but damn it all if she’s supposed to be somewhere when it happens then come hell or broken face she’ll get herself there. She’s street smart after years of living it all but that’s not to say she doesn’t get her ass handed to her. And how.
The story is a weird mesh of out-there situations and real grounded emotions. It reminds me a little bit of Sean Beaudoin’s work but where his is, for the most part, a total mind fuck, Chuck’s is more realistic and sometimes it makes you question whether you’ve been roofied. Not all the time. Just some of it. It’s actually a pretty good balance nestled firmly centered on a scale of Reservoir Dogs to Fight Club.
The next ten best books I’ve reviewed this year, chronologically speaking.
While I have this labeled under vampires The Band really wasn’t a pack of vampires. They were revenants, corporeal entities stuck in the middle between the living and the dead because they have some unresolved stuff sticking them to this half-afterlife. They have to recruit like-minded teenagers to replace the members of their band that actually did move on in order to even out the imbalance and move on themselves. The only downside is they take the perfectly viable human teenagers with them into death. Bummer. There was a hint of blood exchange going on but not really and while they were definitely night people and only drank a particular wine they could still come out during the day (they just didn’t prefer it) and they didn’t actually feed on humans. It’s something different and as much as I like my vampires it was nice to see a change.
I really liked the world(s) Williams created and how familiar they were but were still foreign at the same time. The concept was that many people, after they died, went to the second realm where they experienced a new level of existence mutually exclusive to the first realm, or the one we live in. Earth’s myths and legends were loosely based on the creatures and stories from the second realm and a lot of the facts were lost in translation because a lot of it just couldn’t be translated. There are elements of the second realm that just don’t transfer to the human one. The third realm is more of an afterlife as we know it, where if you die in the second that’s where you go. And then there’s the underworld and the semi-world that the Nail, who’s trying to merge the first and second realms so he can wreak havoc on the worlds, occupies that exists in this kind of active limbo. It’s not as complicated as I’m making it sound, if I’m even describing it correctly, but it’s all incredibly detailed and there was never a moment where I couldn’t picture what was going on in my head regardless of how foreign and fantastical the worlds were.
Well she is rather guarded and plays her cards closely to her chest. For years she’s been a killer and that’s it. She hasn’t admitted any other human emotions to herself for most of her life until Po comes into it. So I would imagine to have her secrets, secrets that she won’t even admit to herself, laid bare for someone to see, would be the ultimate intrusion. Someone that could show Katsa what she truly is would be horrifying indeed. She’s been in IT for so long, the king’s THING, that to be exposed as human would be quite painful. This isn’t someone she’d want others to see so knowing that there are people out there that could just take that information and use it against her would send someone like her, someone unable to process her own emotions, into a rage because that’s all she knows.
Not a lot really happened in SUPERNATURALLY but what did happen was still enjoyable to read. I mean the opening of the book is Evie getting kidnapped by some cloud fairy thing. She gets stink eye from all manner of fey throughout the book, gets stalked by a deranged vampire, encounters some trolls and has to deal with a friend that’s a little too ditzy and upbeat for personality. It’s exhausting and exciting and what’s even better is the book is what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. I like quirk in my books but I’ve found lately that they tend toward the extreme and it only ends up sounding forced. Not here. It’s normal and quirky and snarky and, most importantly, BELIEVABLE. I didn’t feel like I was getting slapped with quirk.
I was never too big of an Archer fan so once Brigan came into the picture and stopped being a douche I was all over that. He and Fire . . . they needed to get on that. Seriously. That relationship just broke my damn heart. Like crying at work while reading it broke my heart. How’s that for embarrassing?
The whole issue with Leck developed really creepily and it completely fit him. A real Village of the Damned and Damien smash and have an unholy offspring kind of creepy where he can do the same thing as monsters like Fire can but he takes it to a whole new level, even beyond what her father did and it brought goosebumps to my skin. Going into it you know that Leck will survive whatever Fire throws at him because he’s an old man in Graceling but to see him get there was an adventure unto itself. Fire, for all her self-imposed meekness, knows how to stand her ground and not crumple when she wants something done.
The second the book started I was reading it with an accent in my head that kind of sounded like Shelby Foote, well to-do person from the upper echelons of the south that have a more cultured drawl about them. That was the tone of the book for me. And it fit oh so well. The over the top level of propriety and gasp and SCANDAL was just ungodly amusing to me as I sat there reading it, squealing in delight at the moments of SHAME and FLUTTER and QUIVERING THIGHS. Clutch the pearls, ladies. It’s wonderful.
It was very much over the top in terms of writing style but it fit. The story was over the top, the situation was over the top, the gasping and lack of propriety was over the top but you know what? I couldn’t get over the top enough. The sexual tension between Lydia and Vincent was extravagant and I just wanted to scream DO IT ALREADY. I’m imagining this is indicative of writing within the confines of this era because that tension was drawn OUT until no one involved, including this reader, could take it anymore. FINALLY it happened and oh steamy thigh quivering it was phenomenal.
The love interest aspect of it reminded me of Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms books between Raisa and Han, the queen and the pauper, basically. That’s what happened here with Bitterblue and the Love Interest whose name escapes me. It was very push and pull, there was a lot of lying going on and it was all rather tumultuous but it was interesting to see it develop. It was also rather heartbreaking knowing that Bitterblue had to be so secretive about everything. She’s a queen that’s doing the best she can in the aftermath of a manipulative, sadistic tyrant who also happened to be her father but it’s not ever good enough. She’s cracking under the pressure and escaping to this other world within her city is a means for her to really see what’s going on and put her duties in perspective.
Because everyone’s finally come to terms with their places in the greater game of humanity everyone’s finally come into their characters and I got to see who they really were. Church effectively became a broken messiah, becoming the spearhead of the fight. He did it because it was his destiny. There was a little bucking and fighting but he finally came to trust it all and it always played out in the end. Ruth finally embraced her powers and became the powerful nature warrior she was tasked with being. It wasn’t without its consequences but she grabbed that power by the balls and made it her bitch. Shavi showed the least change, only because he accepted his path long before the others. Veitch teetered on acceptance and completely breaking down. His emotions swung wildly in ALWAYS FOREVER and he was the character that became the most unstable as the story went on. He seemed to fight back against what was happening while at the same time being accepting of it. Tom . . . Tom finally let the human in him show and it was heartbreaking. As for Laura, she finally got over her crap. And oh my god what a wonderful character she became. Seriously. She really is an awesome, snarky, strong character when she isn’t being an abhorrent bitch. That piece of herself she left behind in book 2 and good riddance I say to that.
From the second I started reading I was on board with the characters, the setting, the voice, everything. It’s written in such a way that it evokes the time it’s trying to portray. A bit more formal, a higher level of voice. But Shecter doesn’t overdo it, even when she swaps Tag’s slave POV to Lucia’s highborn POV. There isn’t any trying too hard or overly intellectual language going on. It’s realistic and I bought every second of it. I should go back to Tag’s POV for a second, though, to say that he and Lucia grew up together and that Tag is just as educated as Lucia. He’s a medicus (basically a healer/doctor), is proficient in Latin and Greek and had all the privileges Lucia did as a youth. He was lucky. So their voices didn’t really differ on an intellectual level but Tag maintained his intelligence even amongst the gladiators. There weren’t any slips and he wasn’t wearing two faces at all throughout the story. He was never trying to be something he wasn’t. He was just Tag.
And then the end just comes in and blows my brains right out of my head because it went ahead and surprised the hell right out of me. I did not expect the book to go the route that it did and it more than made up for the slower plot the rest of the book had. The ending elevated Rosie to a new level of Awesome Character and it really gave me answers that finally gave reality to the book. There was no longer a question of what was going on.
The voice itself is really compelling and I think that’s what kept me reading in the beginning. The writing was nice and I like reading nice writing. But then O’Brien started playing with my head and I loved her just a little more for that. I think it takes real talent to be able to warp someone’s perception like that and mak them question what’s going on in their own heads, not only just with what’s in the book. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in book two. And damn do I have a long time to wait for that.