Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

  • Release Date: July 24th 2014
  • Pages: 368
  • Genre: Contemporary 
  • Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)

Like No Other has an easy pitch; take the star crossed lovers trope and apply it to a  Hasidic Jewish girl  and West Indian boy in 21st century Brooklyn with a meet cute in a broken elevator during a storm.

 I really like  what this book is doing in terms of the current state of YA publishing. It’s like yeah diversity in YA,  yeah diverse cover art and oh look The New York Times is reviewing a diverse book by a female author.  But despite my cheering for its successes I kind of take issue with LaMarche's portrayal of the male protagonist Jaxon

I didn't necessarily hate his character. Jaxon is a nerdy first generation West Indian who represents the average teen boy and I actually like many of his introductory paragraphs.

It's funny; I forget sometimes how I might look to other people. I could be reading The Great Gatsby on the 3 train, or walking down the street listening to a podcast on my phone, or coming out of the orthodontist's office with Invisalign braces feeling like the biggest nerd on the planet, but some people don't notice anything but an almost six-foot-tall black man.

But aside from a few mentions about being a black nerd in the beginning, his own race and West Indian culture identity are almost non-existent in the course of this relationship. In this interview LaMarche explains Jaxon is an audience avatar to the Hasidic culture and she didn't want to make him "so other." You don't have to look farther than a Buzzfeed list  to know that being a first generation American is just as much a unique perspective and the choice to remove feels like she is saying the only way to do diversity is to have it appeal to a white audience. I think it's fair to say you could be West Indian and still know nothing about Hasidic Jewish culture.

Jaxon's characterization wouldn't have bothered me so much if this book wasn't from his point of view, but he gets just as many chapters as Devorah and he gets significantly less development and conflict.

That said our female protagonist,  Devorah has a very strong story arc and point of view. I like that her life changes when she meets a boy and not just because she meets a boy. And while there is one Hasidic Jewish Strawman, for the most part her family is portrayed as nuanced in their experiences with their faith and it is clear from the acknowledgements that LaMarche did lots of research to understand a community that can be very private.

For me this book it falls under  the your fave is problematic category. It's an interesting, funny romance with a refreshing angle and I learned some history of Brooklyn I  never knew, but the story of their relationship felt very lopsided.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Opening Up Book Riot's First YA Quaterly Box

Last week my Book Riot YA Quarterly Box came in the mail ! This is quarterly bookish subscription box from Bookriot.com. Each box comes with two YA books and some book related items. Let's open up and see what's inside.

Spoilers Ahoy !

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Audiobook Review : Reboot by Amy Tintera

  • Release Date: May 7th, 2013
  • Pages: 365 
  • Genre: Dystopian/Thriller
  • Publisher: HarperTeen

I've been in a bit of a fictional hangover. Which is to say I binged watched Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra series and was searching for a book to fill this void. I wanted adventure, world building and action girls so I immediately started browsing YA dystopians. I settled on Reboot after getting a rec from a regular reader.

Wren Conolloy is a Reboot. A person who has died of the KDHD virus but rises from the dead as a faster and stronger creature. The longer a Reboot is dead before rising, the stronger they are. Having been dead for a record breaking 178 minutes, Wren is the best Reboot there is.

Reboots aren't free, they are the red shirt henchmen army of HARC, the mega-corporation/government entity that ended the war (you know how there is always a War) and keeps people "safe". Wren has no issues following HARC and their shady orders, some of which have included killing. She makes no excuses about it and I this attitude makes her a bit of an anti-hero, which I liked.

As a character Wren knows she is the best and she never expects to fail. Her cocky attitude and status as a 178 was very reminiscent of Korra in Legend of Korra. Wren has a pretty dark past, that's based more on reality that I expected from a dystopian.

The story told in Reboot is from a perspective we don't typically see in YA dystopians.  I feel like this story could  have easily been a Divergent-esque "girl in new environment storyline", but instead Wren is the experienced character and it doesn't feel like we are being introduced to everything. The naive ingenue storyline was handed over to our male protagonist, Callum Reyes.

Callum is a new Reboot, he was only dead for 22 minutes before rising making him more human than cold hard Reboot. As he and Wren begin to train together the usual YA dystopian tropes began to fall into place; evil-corporation-is-extra-evil, secret rebels, secret safe house, class divide. But I liked the characters enough to want to see how this played out.

The world building in this book was a little rocky at times. It seemed like the book was breaking and over explaining its rules. The big one being the explanation behind why only teen Reboots are kept and adults are killed. The explanation didn't work for me, the adults just go "crazy."

The audiobook is narrated and directed  by Khristine Hvam who I liked in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I'd never heard Hvam do first person before and I picked up on some ky differences in her performance. She has to not only find the character's voice but carry it for every sentence as opposed to third person where there can be use more storytelling inflection.

Reboot is a clever send up of the zombie mythology.While this novel did dive into some cliche territory this was exactly what I  was looking for at the time; an action packed book with an unapologetic main character.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

So You Want To Review A Galley: The Basics For Beginners PT 1

At Books and Sensibility we like to do things we probably aren't qualified for. Like judging book covers or attending the largest publishing event in North America after blogging for all of 9 months. Now we want to to talk about galley or  Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) requests. Getting advanced copies isn't everything in blogging, but  it can be fun to be apart of the promotion for a book you're excited about !

We want to share our tips on how we request ARCs. We don't have many chances to network with publisher connections, so our ARC request are basically like cold calls, which if you are a new book blogger you will be doing.

Check out the second part here.

1. Build Your Content 

Before contacting publishers spend at least 2-3 months building your blog with reviews and other content. That way you have something to show off when you send requests. Take this time to find out what you like to review and what upcoming releases you really want to request.

2.  Discover NetGalley and Edelweiss

These websites are the top two places to go for browsing upcoming releases and requesting e-ARCs from the Big Five and small publishers. Signing up is free and easy.

Edelweiss is best for browsing publisher's catalogs. I use this to get the scoop on what's  coming up next year. For tips on browsing Edelweiss check out this post from River City Reading.

 NetGalley is great for professional readers and bloggers to request e-ARCs. It's user friendly and has tips and advice on how to request titles. You'll find all the Big 5 publishers plus smaller and independent presses. When you sign up make sure your profile includes as much information as possible. Show them what you can do for them ! Include stats and accomplishments.

3. Contest/Social Media 

While you are building up your content, entering ARC contests are a great way to get another blogger's extra review copies and to meet new bloggers. Check out giveaway hops hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer or Stuck in Books.

 Follow authors and publisher you're interested in on Twitter because many of them hold Twitter contests. If you win/receive an ARC be sure to send your review to the contact person listed in the ARC, it's a great way to get your name out there.

4. Know The Difference Among Publishers

Using Netgalley and Edelweiss can help you figure out who publishes your favorite books. Do some homework ! Get to know the imprints. If you wanted an HarperTeen book you don't want to contact Harper Perennial. Do some research and  browse each imprint's social media or websites to figure out their publicity e-mail or if they have a newsletter.

5. Send a Request E-mail

Once you've done your research it's time to send an e-mail. Keep it short and highlight why you want to review the book and what they can expect from you. If they have to scroll to read all your e-mail, it's to long. If you want to more info add it at the end after a broiler plate (###).

Quick Don'ts

- Don't buy or sell galleys. They are for promotional purposes only and  cost the publishers money.

- Don't contact the author for an ARC request unless they mention you can on social media. Most authors are not in charge of ARC distribution

- Don't upload e-ARCs online for distribution.

- Don't get caught up in getting ARCs. Sometimes reviewing old favorites can get you more hits than reviewing the hottest newest book before it's released.

Have we missed anything ? Have any questions ? Let us know below !

Next Up : Writing That Request E-mail.


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