Blogging, ARCs, and Obligations


If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and you are the observant type (unlike me), you might have noticed that Amanda posts a lot more reviews than me. That is because she reads faster than a speeding bullet. She also receives and reviews a lot more ARCs (that’s Advance Reader Copies) and other books directly from publishers.

I have, since we started blogging, requested exactly one book through Netgalley (a site where bloggers and reviews can request books to read before they are published). It was a Civil War novel called Neverhome and I did not get it. I have, since we started blogging, received exactly one book from a publisher, Dorothy Must Die, because I saw Amanda emailing with the publisher, and I said, “oooh, ask if they’ll send me one too, and we can review it together!” She obliged, and they obliged.

Anyway, I haven’t been too motivated to seek review copies – I have a lot of books on my (small) bookshelf, or downloaded for my Kindle, or available at the library, and I just am not that inspired to keep up with what’s not even out yet. I don’t want deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, on my reading.

But, I don’t think that’s how Amanda sees it at all, so I thought we should discuss. I started by sending Amanda a link to this blog post where Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness argues that blogging “for” books has negative connotations, and calls for bloggers to start thinking of reviews differently – less about reviews “in exchange for” books, and more as “for review consideration.

So, sister, discuss:


I admit it. I read quickly.  I can’t help it.  Reading is also my first choice for entertainment 90% of the time.  I’d rather sit on the couch with a book than watch tv.  Its not always high brow reading and that’s fine!  As a result I’m always looking for my next book.  I have my library hold list maintenance down to a science.  I love knowing what books are coming out soon and stalking my favorite authors for more.  I love hearing what friends are reading and I love talking about books.  So when I realized how many book blogs are out there and that I could really do this myself-with my sister of course-requesting ARCs became part of that.  

I won’t deny that part of the appeal of setting up a book blog was free books-not only that, free books before they’re published.  But I love connecting with people who read even more than me and that read the same random variety that I do.  My goodreads shelf that I’m currently reading now contains chick-lit, fantasy, feminist essays, and historical fiction-both YA and adult.  I will try almost any book you put in front of me and I love finding others like that.


Hmm, but does free mean in exchange for a review, or does free mean, review and talk about this book if you really love it? Because some of the books you’ve received do not sound very good – and I’m not sure that those reviews are very helpful to the publishers – uh, I guess unless people are into that sort of stuff…

So are you obligated to review, or not?

Holly again:

Amanda’s response has been to send more more links to read!

A thoughtful response on On Starships and Dragonwings, weighing in on “exchange” and “consideration” and another from There Were Books Involved.

Hmmm, both of these are pretty much in agreement with the first link I sent Amanda, that maybe the sentence “I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review” is not entirely accurate or appropriate.

So maybe Amanda agrees too? And will change her mind about phrasing her reviews? I’m waiting to find out. [Taps foot. I’d whistle too but I am not capable of whistling. #truth]


I guess my basic thought is-why would a publisher give me a book FOR FREE if I wasn’t going to give some kind of opinion on it to the world at large to see?  Why would I ASK for a book if I wasn’t willing to do that?  Yes, there have been some books that I requested and read that either a) weren’t well written or b) insane and icky–but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for someone else.  There are people out there, sister, that consider Twilight high-fiction.  Who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?  That’s a quote right?  Maybe that’s true in the book business?

Maybe I’d feel differently if I had authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read.  Aside from spammy twitter attempts I haven’t really had that happen.  Really the lack of payment exchange is what sums it up for me.  If I want to read something without giving a review and without paying for it I will go to the amazing Chicago Public Library.  If they don’t have it I’ll try  If they don’t have it I’ll either suck it up and buy or go without.  But if I ask for something to read for free from a publisher I have no problem with their being an expectation for a review or some kind of feedback submitted.


You know, I definitely don’t have authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read. But you know what I do have? A sister always trying to demand I read more of the books. Sigh.


But come on! Have I been wrong?  Go back and read Quintana and then sigh at me sister.


Whatever. Smooches.

Review: The Accident

The Accident, Chris Pavone

Reviewed by Amanda

Published March 11, 2014 by Crown Publishing, 400 pgs

Source: Netgalley


From Goodreads…

From the author of the New York Times-bestselling and Edgar Award-winning The Expats

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through the explosive revelations about powerful people, as well as long-hidden secrets about her own past. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals with publication of The Accident, while always looking over his shoulder.

Over the course of one long, desperate, increasingly perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril.  The rich cast of characters—in publishing and film, politics and espionage—are all forced to confront the consequences of their ambitions, the schisms between their ideal selves and the people they actually became.

The action rockets around Europe and across America, with an intricate web of duplicities stretching back a quarter-century to a dark winding road in upstate New York, where the shocking truth about the accident itself is buried.

Gripping, sophisticated, layered, and impossible to put down, The Accident proves once again that Chris Pavone is a true master of suspense.

Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.  That is a lesson proved in the Accident.  

The Accident read like watching a movie for me. It was fast paced with a lot of action throughout. I felt the tension build from the beginning as I tried to figure out who wrote the manuscript and how far the subject of The Accident and his shadowy CIA associates would really go to find the copies and the author.  This was a fast read for me because I was so entranced.  The chapters were short with alternating points of view as the manuscript moved from person to person.  I found myself thinking ahead a lot and wondering where copies would end up which was fun.  Perhaps some of it was predictable, but I definitely did not expect this to go the way it did in the end.  

This was a great fun read when you want something not too serious.  Also, I just always love books about books!  

I haven’t read the Expats yet, but I will definitely go back and do so now.  I liked Kate, who had a brief but memorable role in the Accident and I’d like to hear her story.  

4 stars!

Thank you Netgalley and Crown Publishing for this advanced copy for review.

Review: The Anatomy Lesson

The Anatomy Lesson, Nina Siegal


Published March 11, 2015 by Nan A.Talese, 288 pages.

Source: Edelweis


18077844Set on a single day in the Dutch Golden Age, this engrossing historical novel brilliantly imagines the complex story behind one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings

Commissioned by the Amsterdam surgeon’s guild, “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” was the first major work by Rembrandt to be proclaimed a masterpiece. The novel opens on the morning of the medical dissection, and, as they prepare for that evening’s big event, it follows several characters: a one-handed coat thief called Aris the Kid, who is awaiting his turn at the gallows; Flora, the woman pregnant with his child who hopes to save him from the noose; Jan Fetchet, a curio collector who also moonlights as an acquirer of medical cadavers; René Descartes, who attended the dissection in the course of his quest to understand where the human soul resides; and the 26-year old young master himself, who feels a shade uneasy about his assignment. Then there’s Pia, an art restorer who is examining the painting in contemporary times. As the story builds to its dramatic and inevitable conclusion, the events that transpire throughout the day sway Rembrandt to change his initial composition in a fundamental way. Bringing to life the vivid world of Amsterdam in 1632, The Anatomy Lesson offers a rich slice of history and a textured story by a masterful young writer.

In this book we follow the development of Rembrandt’s painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” from its commision by the ambitious Dutch surgeon Dr. Tulp, to the thought process behind the painting and the beginning of the work by Rembrandt, and then to the restorer looking down on the masterpiece in the future.  I really liked that Siegal had all the action take place on the day of the anatomy lesson, yet still gave so much life to the story of Aris the Kid, Flora his lover, Rembrandt himself, and Dr. Tulp.  

There are clearly no spoilers here, Aris is hung or the painting would not exist.  As the story begins Aris is in jail and awaiting the hangman while Flora learns he is to be hanged that day.  Her hope to save him for her unborn son’s sake paired with Aris’ acceptance of his fate was quite moving and sad when you know the resolution.  Siegal gives depth the Aris’ story, so he becomes so much more than just the thief who by the chance of fate is memorialized in a masterpiece by Rembrandt.  He’s a man who loved, who was hurt; a man who was wronged in life and did wrongs himself but still gave happiness-a man with a real life and not just a body in a painting.  

Siegal also gives us a peek into the life of Rembrandt as a child and as a working artist which I enjoyed.  The Art Institute of Chicago is one of my favorite places in the world, I love to look at the art, but do not spend enough time thinking about the artists themselves.  So I really liked the humanizing of the painter as well as the subject in this case.  The dealer in curiosities who also served as the assistant to Dr. Tulp was probably the most dislikeable character, just kind of a shady guy, however, he also made the process more interesting.

One of the questions that Dr. Tulp tries to answer in the anatomy lesson is where is the physical evidence of Aris’ corruption?  How can the body show the thief’s character?   Descartes is trying to find where in the body the soul resides and so attends the lecture to try to gain evidence.  This was one of the notes that fell flat for me, it seemed to be overreaching and unnecessarily dry.  Siegal did an excellent job painting her own picture and placing the reader in the Netherlands and into the time period, but she went too far I think with trying to give her own lesson.  Dr. Tulp’s lecture itself was also very dry and I admit I just skipped over much of it.  I would say the same thing about the restorer’s passages.  They were interesting, but I did not feel they added to the story and I could have done without them.

What really struck me when I finished the Anatomy Lesson was how this man’s death was a commodity for so many.  Aris the Kid was immortalized by Rembrandt, but it took this book to make him a man again, not just a piece of art.  

This book definitely left me thinking.  If you’re an art lover or historical fiction fan you should check it out and I hope you do love it.

3 stars

Thank you Nan A.Talese and edelweis for this advance copy for review.