Discussion: Are ARC’s Actually Worth It?

Potentially unpopular opinion alert….

Recently, I noticed a bit of a trend with my review ratings being higher than normal. Whereas I’m usually pretty stingy when dishing out stars (two and a half is ok, three is good, five has to be earth shattering) I found I was consistently rating books at around the four star mark and one month even had two five star reviews. Unheard of. So what was going on?

I did a bit of light digging and found that my NetGalley deadlines were pretty quiet for the months in question. Hmmm. When I looked closer, I found that I have a tendency to not enjoy NetGalley ARC’s as much as books I’d obtained from other sources (bought as new, bought second hand, borrowed from the library or a friend). That’s odd, right? 

Now, I’m not saying that I haven’t found some amazing novels on NetGalley. A quick flick through my book journal shows brilliant books like Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, The Feather Thief, Bitter and The Woman in the Window all came from there, plus many others. However, I definitely feel like there’s a tendency for me to find an ARC a bit meh. Why?

Well, I guess there’s a pretty slick PR department at NetGalley who are professionals at making books sound A-MA-ZING when in reality, they’re probably not. In my reading life, they’re the only professional source of book marketing that I engage with. The only other thing that comes close is authors or blog tour organisers who directly approach me to review their books. The thing is, a direct email is so much more personal that I’m far, far pickier about participating. I have to be almost entirely sure that I’m going to like the novel before I agree to review it because, well, how super awkward would it be to send a negative review directly to the author or the person who was counting on you for some publicity? I have almost zero qualms about sending a negative review to NetGalley though because it’s so…impersonal. I’m just a random person sending feedback via an intermediary. Nothing ever comes of it so there’s no fear. 

Apart from the marketing angle, I guess the idea of free books gives me a kid-in-a-sweet-shop mentality. I want them all! I was exactly the same when I first bought a Kindle and discovered the Top 100 Free chart. Unlimited free books from the comfort of my home! My dreams have been realised! Then I started reading them and found the quality to be…let’s say variable…trending towards the lower end of the scale (again, not knocking anyone, I’ve found some great free books over the years. They just tend to be few and far between). 

But Lucinda, you use the library! Free books! It’s the same thing, right?

Well actually, no. Firstly, the library doesn’t send you vaguely manipulative emails every five minutes telling you that only 100 people will get to read this book now or give you professional marketing literature about a book that they’ve been told to push. The most you’ll get is a “If you liked this you might like…” or an impartial recommendation. Plus you can still only have six books at a time (presumably to stop people like me with no impulse control from turning up with a wheelbarrow and emptying the shelves). The library exists as a publicly funded entity, NetGalley is a profit making PR firm. 

Major. Difference. 

But you must buy books that you don’t like?

Yes of course but since I’m not a millionaire they tend to be considered purchases. I see buying books as a treat, so I need to choose wisely. I’ll spend far more time looking at reviews, reading synopses and shopping around than I would for an ARC. I mean, I could be spending that money on gin.

So, are you going to stop using NetGalley?

Of course not, I’m not an idiot. Free books, remember?!?

Seriously, I don’t think using NetGalley is a bad idea – on the contrary, it’s a brilliant resource for book bloggers like myself. I’ve found lots of amazing novels through the site and I love it when I find out that my request to read something has been approved. I am going to be more restrained though. I’d like to spend more time on my actual, long-standing TBR instead of succumbing to the latest whim. Boringly Annoyingly As always, it seems like moderation is the key. 

What are your thoughts on sites like NetGalley? Do you find a difference in your enjoyment of ARCs vs bought/library books? Let me know in the comments!

Discussion: Re-reading Books

Like most of us, I have a huge mental TBR. I have lists of books I want to read, lists of suggestions, piles of physical books, loads of downloaded e-books, books on my wishlist, books I’ve got my eye on in the library, NetGalley ARC’s, reading challenges that need books allocating to them, stuff on Goodreads that I added so long ago I can’t remember what’s on there, forthcoming books I’m considering pre-ordering…the list quite literally goes on. And honestly, when I see it all written down like that, I feel a bit sick. 

HOW WILL I EVER FIND THE TIME?

So, with all this self-imposed pressure, why – for the love of God why – would I want to re-read something I’d already read? I mean, I’ve ticked it off. It’s disappeared from my basket. It’s in the archives. It’s done.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I am what I would call a “gratification reader” (yes I just made that up). I loooooove that feeling of reading the last page of a novel. I get excited when I realise that a book is a lot shorter than I first thought and I can make the progress bar jump up in chunks – although nothing beats the feeling of finishing a massive tome (one day, Les Miserables, one day). So to then have to go back – even years in the future – and do it all again…where’s the fun in that?

Well, there does seem to be some method to the madness. Lots of people feel that they get more out of a story the second time (or more! Seriously, who are these people). There might be details that you’d missed the first time around and some readers liken it to visiting an old friend (I would argue an old friend with nothing new to tell you, but hey ho). I can’t help but think that this all sound horribly repetitive. Am I meant to read the entire book, even the boring bits? Or the bits I have clear memories of? I never skip through books on principal, so the thought of just missing out chunks of text fills me with dread. 

There’s a more existential argument about self reflection when re-reading – if the text hasn’t changed but your reaction to it has, you can see how far you’ve come as an individual. Well, maybe – but won’t this also potentially ruin treasured bookish memories? Won’t my main reaction be boredom because I know what’s coming next? What if I spot something problematic that had previously passed me by because different times/patriarchy/being a special millennial snowflake?

I guess I could choose a book to re-read that I have no memory of, but isn’t the reason for my lack of memory that the novel simply didn’t resonate with me? I suppose that with the benefit of additional life experience my feelings might have changed and what I hated as a teenager I might now understand/enjoy more. Plus I’m very much a mood reader, so perhaps I didn’t enjoy a particular book because of external influences? 

This brings me on nearly to the subject of Harry Potter (actually it doesnt, but if I say it does I don’t think anyone will notice). When the final HP book came out I was at University (I know! So old) and I just kind of…devoured it. If I hadn’t seen the films so many times I probably wouldn’t even be able to remember it, I read it so fast. As such, I don’t really understand what happened. Yes, I’ve looked online and had it explained to me and yes, I didn’t like what I heard so I went lalala and made up my own ending but I can’t help but miss that feeling of getting it for myself. So I really think that despite my misgivings and the metaphorical TBR tower threatening to topple over and kill me, I probably should give that one another go.

As for becoming a regular re-reader though? 

What are your thoughts on re-reading? Is it something you do often? Are you one of the crazy people who has read the same book multiple times? Let me know in the comments!