Sunday, May 31, 2015

Audiobook Review : Dreams Of Gods and Monsters

  • Release Date: April 8th 2014
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Length: 18 hours 11 minutes
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio

IT IS  FINISHED. I started listening to this series 3 years ago  and  have finally finished this sweeping epic fantasy and love story. Taylor's use of language and creativity have me waiting eagerly to see what she will come up with next.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series starts off with a whimsical art student in Prague and free falls into a fantastical epic conclusion. While I enjoyed the world-building and conflict Taylor created, the ending fizzled just a bit for me. It wasn't that I didn't like it;  it just came and went just a little to swiftly. But despite this, all these book have me sold. They are all plotted perfectly and follow an even pace.

The performance of the audiobook narrator Khristine Hvam was amazing as usual. Her performance is what really got me into audiobooks. I've heard Hvam in Reboot and Pure and to me her performance is the strongest element of this series. She is probably doing over 20 different  voices and fictional accents. Although  I did notice she did start switching some of the name pronunciations.

I'm always going to remember this series fondly. It was what I was listening to when I first discovered the world of YA book blogging. I looked back on Twitter and it turns out I started this on May 2012 and finished it May of 2015 ! I've listened to the story of Karou and Akiva on repeat through several different jobs, commutes and apartment cleanings and I look forward to re-listening to this soon.

Also, also, also . . . . Laini signed a new three-book deal. It   sounds a lot like the Smoke and Bone series but . . .

. . . seriously just the title or a cover. . .

Thursday, May 21, 2015

So You Want To Review A Galley : The Request E-mail

We laid out the basics on how we request ARCs, now here are examples of the successful e-mails we've sent to publicist/the publicity department of the publisher. Most of these have been "cold call" e-mails.

My First Request Letter

This is the very first ARC request I did after 5 months of blogging and I sent it to the author. Newbie mistake. The author was really gracious about it and sent it to the publicist. Authors don't control ARC distribution, so send it to a publicist/publicity department.  Here we go
I came across your site via Twitter and found myself interested in Book Title. My co-blogger and I  have a rising book blog, Books and Sensibility, and wanted to know if there are any ARCs of Book Title available. Book Title is the kind of book that we want to promote our readers. We are both new to the urban fantasy genre and want to explore every facet of it we can.
I like to start with a quick intro. Tell them who you are and what you want. I let them know off the bat the blog is "rising". I'm not sure I would use use the word "promote" now.
We update with relevant information on books, authors and other reader information. A review with Books and Sensibility will do more than gloss over the books,  a comprehensive review examining all facets of the novel, with a little bit of humor thrown in.
Now, I wouldn't put this information nowadays. I mean  most publicist know what a book blog is and this adds to the length of the e-mail. Publicist are busy and might not have time for to much scrolling.

If you have any questions (or if there is someone else I should contact) please feel free to contact me !
I like this line because it leaves an open door in case the e-mail went to the wrong person, like this e-mail did. I also like to think that if it gets forwarded,  people are more likely to give more attention to  an e-mail forwarded from a co-worker than an unsolicited e-mail.

Current ARC Request Letter

I don't use my ARC request letter as a template but more of a rough draft. I edit and customize them depending on what I'm requesting. Here is a current one I used to request two 2014 ARCs. They weren't on Netgalley.   We were fans of the authors and reviewed the other book in the series. We found the publicity contact on Twitter and sent out this "cold call"

I like to keep it casual and on a first name basis.
My name is Jess , I’m a blogger at Books and Sensibility and would like to request a review copy of Book Title by Book Author for promotion and review.
Who you are, what you want, and why. I also include the link so they can click over and visit

 At Books and Sensibility we've followed Author's career and have covered her extensively at events in the  DC/NY area  and would be very excited to review her latest !

A little personal info to show your enthusiasm and why you want to review this book. I then put in a broiler plate (###) with additional information about Books and Sensibility:

At Book and Sensibility we create content for bookish types. Each week we publish book reviews, editorials and special features on YA literature. We strive to bring new and diverse ideas to the young adult reading experience.

Quick Facts:  
·         Over 150  Book reviews
·         50 original editorial posts
·         Over 800 Twitter and RSS followers
·         200+ followers on PinterestTumblr and Instagram
·         1,000 unique monthly visits
·         Featured on Wastepaper Prose, Mission To Read and Alexa Loves Books
·         Active on  YouTubeTwitterGoodreads and More

About Us
Book and Sensibility was created by two sisters with a lifelong connection through books. Started in 2011 during that awkward post-grad stage, Books and Sensibility is a way to talk about reading YA as an adult and learning  to explore the intersection of YA and Adult fiction. From reviews to features we consider ourselves an open book.

Do you have a request e-mail you like to use ? Any ideas to help make ours stand out ? Let me know in the comment section.

Monday, May 11, 2015

11/22/63 by Stephen King

  • Release Date: November 8th 2011
  • Genre: Magical Realism / Thriller
  • Pages: 849
  • Publisher: Scribner 

I've always been intrigued by the cover of this book; one side shows a newspaper with Kennedy's assassination as the headline and the other side has the same newspaper with a headline saying the assassination had been avoided. This book has had been sitting on my Kindle since it was on sale for  2.99 and after finishing A Thousand Pieces of You I was looking for a more  complex alternate universe story and figured King could deliver.

 Everything you need to know about this book can be summarized from the cover. Basically,  high school teacher, Jake Epping, goes back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination. I think saying anything else would just get... complicated.

 This is book is a saga. While I've dabbled with The Dark Tower series and other King novels this is only the second one I've finished. A few years ago I read his short crime noir novel Joyland and really enjoyed it but at well over 800 pages this book takes it to a whole new level. I was 110% into the mythology King was building into this story. The method he invents that allows Jake  to go back in time has some interesting rules and intense side effects that add some complications to the story.

And it's not just magical rules King is building, he is also recreating a certain time and place in the 1960's. I think he does a fair job of addressing the intense racism, sexism and classism that existed in this time when he could have easily avoided it.

 I didn't know a lot about the Kennedy assassination and it's obvious the years of research that went into this book.  King was going to originally publish this in the 1970's but it was considered too soon. It was kind of strange for me at first  because Kennedy's assassin, Lee Henry Oswald and his wife, are secondary characters in the book and King is basically writing fictional dialogue and incidents for them.

At 849 pages this is the longest book I've read since the last Harry Potter came out, so when I first opened this book I told myself  I'd have to be ride or die and actually finish this thing. I did kind of cramp up at one point and stop reading, but I was able to finish this in 2 and half weeks because the pacing goes so quickly and you want to know if Jake will stop the assassination and what that will mean for the future. As a reader I wanted to spend time in this world.

I do have one critique. I've read two of King books and a handful of short stories and I just haven't found an interesting female character in his writing. Most of them securely play the role of Damsel in Distress or get Thrown in Refrigerators. His books also seem to  have this particular brand of "I'm the nice guy hapless hero" protagonist I mean he has to be on like his 100th white-middle-age-writer-and-or-aspiring-writer-from-the-North.

 If you're looking for a big book to spend some time with and your interested in a twist on history this book is mind-bendy page turner. 

It looks like this will be a TV show with James Franco on Hulu...I'm curious if it will all come out at once or week by week.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Listen Up (Again) : Podcasts for Readers

I didn't think it was possible but since our last posts on podcasts I have become even more obsessed ! They are the perfect thing to listen to when doing boring tasks like cleaning the house, washing dishes or long car drives. Here are some of my favorite podcasts that will appeal to the YA reader.

Dear Bitches, Smart Authors aka DBSA Podcast

Hosted by Sarah Wendell from  the romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and occasionally Dear Author owner, Jane Litte I devoured this podcast. I didn't read romance at the time…although er, it made  me start a romance blog. The romance genre has so many smart and funny authors  and it's fascinating to hear about their lives and writing styles. Not to mention Sarah and Jane have great chemistry.

Suggested Episodes:

Dear Sugar 

A spin off of the cult advice column, the Dear Sugar Podcast is hosted by  authors and friends Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed. Each week they field questions about love and life. These two are storytellers so each question is answered with a story from their own lives or occasionally they read a a piece of literature. Also as a bonus literary nod they have other authors on to offer their perspectives.

Suggested Episodes :
This podcast only has 9 full episodes and I suggest them all !

Read it And Weep Podcast

Okay, YA fans you may need a tough skin for this one. This is a podcast where 3 friends and a guest discuss "bad" books and movies, I put bad in quotes because sometimes they like what they read. The hosts are comedians and I think this podcast is hilarious and full of silly fun.  That said, they do take some easy shots at YA books and movies, but I like their commitment to at least read every Twilight book and see every movie.

Suggested Episodes:

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Hosted by NPR's pop culture writer Linda Holmes (who wrote a great piece about Book Girls at BookCon) this podcast is all about pop culture. The hosts and occasional guest sit around talking about the latest and greatest in pop culture adding in their own perspectives and experiences. They don't always talk about books but Linda is a fan of Rainbow Rowell and Women's fiction and the show has NPR's book editor on the panel as well.

Suggested Episodes:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

  • Release Date: October 9, 2014
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy 
  • Narrators: Carla Corvo, Lannon Killea
  • Length: 10 hours 9 minutes
  • Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)

I don’t fangirl  for many authors, but if there is one author I will consider flailing over it's Marie Lu. Her Legend series is one we’ve been talking about on this blog since day one.  The series has great  story building, action and interesting female characters. Needless to say when I heard about The Young Elites I was excited to get back into Lu’s head.

The Young Elites takes place in an alternate (vaguely Italian) 14th century where children who survived a fatal blood fever are known as malfettos and are seen as abominations, particularly  by the governing monarchy. However some malfettos have developed special abilities and are known as the Young Elites; and they are fighting back.When 16-year-old Adelina Amoutero escapes from her abusive father, a series of events finds her among a group of these Young Elites who live in a brothel while they plan to overthrow the government.

At first this book felt very derivative, it has a lot of the fantasy hallmarks; people with special powers as a vague metaphor for racism/homphobia, evil monarchs, crazy colored hair and eyes along with the typical YA Jerk Dad, and No Capable Adults. But the more I listened the more I noticed how this book also subverts a lot of the YA  conventions. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but a couple of moves surprised me. This world is a little crueler than most and Adelina is a little more rougher around the edges. There were a couple of scenes in this book that shocked me.

The writing and worldbuilding fit exactly with what I like about Lu. She’s building a lot of cultures and societies here, but  I could see everything she was describing.  Lu is strongest when she is writing action scenes and the action scene in the end of this was all kinds of craziness.

The format of this book is interesting because we mostly have Adelina’s first person, but we occasionally get the third person POV of two male characters which I think added an interesting depth to the story.

I highly suggest this on audio, the narrators are both amazing, but especially Carla Corvo who does a bulk of the book. She does really solid acting and her voices were awesome. I liked her version of the male characters better than the male narrators version. Her narration bumps this review from a 3.5 to a 4 for me.  The audiobook also helps with some of the name pronunciations, although they did go into this weird Giada De Laurentis thing where she would randomly use a strong Italian accent for some words like AdeLEEENA or malFET-TOE,

This book does have its faults.The plot does feels a little clunky at times and Adelina can get a little Too Stupid To Live with the things she keeps from the Young Elites. Also there are these epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter from “in world” books or stories that felt like too much.

I’m still in a bit of a media hangover from the Nickelodeon's Avatar series and this book had some of those elements I liked about that series with it's horde of ambiguously brown characters battling a young ruler for people with abilities.

The Young Elites created an complex and large world I can’t wait to get back into. I haven't read an epilogue that had me pandering for the sequel like this since The Raven Boys.

Okay, off to scroll through the 488 pins on Marie Lu's Young Elites’ Inspiration Pinterest Board.

It seems to me like the name of this sequel is minor spoiler for what happens in this book.


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