How to Get Free Books – Book Talk Episode 21

How does one go about getting free books?

Well, seeing as how I get free ARCs every week or so, I thought I’d share how this works, as well as giveaway contests, book fairies, and free libraries.

ARCS

Now, I’d like to start off by clarifying what an ARC is, because not everyone is aware, especially if they’re new to the world of reviews. An ARC is an Advanced Review Copy or Advanced Reader Copy. These can either be eBooks, or print proof versions of of books that are coming out in the near future. They are not final versions, and are sent out in order for books to gain reviews and generate discussion prior to their release.

I get eBook ARCs through websites such as Netgalley, and ARC Reviewers.

With Netgalley, the more reviews you share on your blog, booktok, goodreads etc…the more likely you are to be approved for the most anticipated upcoming releases. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you fill out your Netgalley profile completely, so that publishers know exactly what type of books you are looking for. I often get approved for manga review requests, because I read, and review them frequently on my blog and Goodread’s account. The same goes for children’s literature. With Netgalley, there is also a time limit for completing these books. Most ARCs expire by the books release date, or the week of, and depending on the demand, it can be hard to get approved for popular requests without prior reviews on your chosen platforms.

ARC Reviewers has a smaller selection of books available, but it is much easier to get access to new releases. Usually there are 3-5 eBooks to choose from, with a limit of 20 copies for each book. There is anything from romance, to sci-fi on the website, and it is a great way to build your review roster so that you can get approved for ARCs from larger, more competitive websites like Netgalley. ARC Reviewers also does not have a request system in place, so anyone can download an ARC. This is perfect for people starting out, as these ARCs do not expire after a specific time period, and reviewers can add these books to their reviews on Goodread’s, and other platforms to build a following.

Now onto physical ARCs. Physical ARCs have become much harder to come by in recent years, especially with the pandemic. The most common way to get them, is to work for bookstores like Indigo or Barnes & Noble. Publishers will often reach out to these stores directly when they are are looking for avid readers, to review ARCs because it helps to boost sales upon release. If employees at your local bookstore always seem to have read the latest releases, it is because publishers like Harper Collins, Penguin and Scholastic are reaching out to them with free copies of books, sometimes months in advance. By working at a bookstore, book lovers can get access to great programs, giveaways and much, much more.

This year, I became a Children’s and Middle Grade ARC Ambassador for Scholastic. As an ARC Ambassador, Scholastic sends me physical copies of books to read and review for these specific age groups. On occasion I will also receive books in other genres I enjoy, outside of young readers, such as Science Fiction. I get around 2-6 books to read every few weeks and usually these books are sent to me a few months before the actual release date, but sometimes I will get a recent release to review as well. These reviews I post here on my blog, as well as on Goodreads. I will also share my reviews with my team members, highlighting which customers I feel would enjoy reading that specific book. I always aim to add a personal touch to my reviews, especially when I connect well with a book, as I want my review to attract readers to their next favourite book.

ARC Review Etiquette

One thing to keep in mind is ARC Review Etiquette.

What do we do with DNF’d books or low ratings, if the book hasn’t hit the shelves yet?

My rule as a reviewer is, when it comes to Netgalley, send a direct message to the publisher with my concerns about an unreleased book. In these cases I will choose not to leave a public review, because I don’t feel it is fair to the author, and their team to publically slam an unreleased book. I contact them directly out of respect for the people behind the book, in hopes that any concerns I had with the book would be addressed and corrected before the final version was released. The last time I did this, was to address the descriptions of POC in a debut novel I’d gotten an ARC for. I had been extremely excited to read the book, but once the POC character’s were introduced, I noticed a lot of problematic descriptions, that I don’t believe the author or publisher even noticed as potentially harmful. Unfortunately these issues were not addressed, and the book received poor reviews and ratings. As you might notice, I’m not sharing the title of this book out of respect for the author and publisher. I’ve never posted my review either. To me, if I didn’t even finish the book (DNF) I don’t feel it is fair to post that review publically until after the marketing campaign is over. Although this book has been out for over a year now, I feel there are enough reviews on it, which address the thoughts I expressed in my direct message to the editor and publisher before the release. All I’ll say about that situation is, that there are certain tropes, stereotypes and descriptions that definitely need to be retired, and hopefully the author’s next book is a success. As a reviewer I like to be mindful and will always spend time determining whether or not a public review is necessary. If I do leave a public review, for a book I didn’t enjoy, I like to be as polite as possible. You can still be kind, while providing criticism or sharing your opinion. I don’t like chocolate ice cream, but I would never say “this is trash!” to my sister, who absolutely loves it. Just because I don’t enjoy something, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Sometimes, it just isn’t for you, which brings me to my next point: with low ratings, it is proper review etiquette to provide readers with an explanation, as it’s unhelpful to those who rely on reviews to simply see a 2 star rating, without any reasoning behind it.

Now, everything I mentioned above in terms of Review Etiquette is something that reviewers often debate when it comes to ARCs and book tours. I always reevaluate this whenever I read a book I wasn’t fond of, and try to take into consideration the people behind the book, the amount of work they did, and whether or not what I have to say is thoughtful and worth contributing to the conversation. To completely trash a book during it’s release month or even worse, on the release date is just seen as poor review etiquette, at least amongst reviewers I follow and admire. This is why at times, you’ll see videos made say, three to six months after a book releases titled, “books I DNF’d.” Everyone however, has their own approach to this, but I do encourage people to really reflect before posting a review.

Giveaways

Now onto giveaways.

How does one find book giveaways?

Well, there are many places to look. A lot of giveaways are hosted by authors, publishers, bookstores and even reviewers. I follow the newsletters of several of my favourite authors, and they will announce giveaways a couple times a year, especially for new releases or special editions of books. These can be incredibly cool, and it’s always nice to win free stuff. It’s also beneficial to follow author newsletters because closer to the holidays, they might offer neat treats to their fans. One author I follow gave away Halloween themed goodies, designed by an artist friend of theirs since their novel took place in a haunted mansion!

Author Kami Garcia recently did a giveaway on Instagram for bundles of her novels, and the DC graphic novel series she’s been writing based on the Teen Titan’s characters.

Publisher giveaways tend to be hosted on a variety of social media platforms. Sometimes they’re done in collaboration with specific booksellers, or authors. Other times, it’s just a fun campaign for bookish peeps to check out. Some publishers will also give away tote bags with book related goodies, and exclusive content. I usually see these giveaways on Instagram, but have stumbled across a handful on Goodreads and Twitter over the years. I recently saw a very cool giveaway for Heartstopper to celebrate the film adaptation!

You can also type in #giveaways or #freebooks in the search bars of your favourite social media apps to find some neat stuff, however always be sure to read the details and guidelines of these contests carefully, and make sure that the host isn’t asking for anything sketchy in return. You should never be asked to pay a fee to enter a giveaway (unless it’s a raffle to raise money), or provide information such as your credit card.

One of the best ways to constantly find giveaway’s for books is Goodreads. I’ve entered lots of giveaways through the site, and recently hosted one for Vermin. It’s very easy for people to enter, and it’s also fun to scroll through and see what books are available. All that is required is a Goodread’s account, and Goodreads will of course send you a reminder to leave a review of the book once you’ve finished it.

Book Fairies and Free Mini Libraries

Earlier in this post I mentioned book fairies. Book fairies are very special, magical beings, who leave books around in public places for people to keep and take home. They are more common in the UK, and I’ve yet to catch a book fairy in action, however when I was little one often frequented my local Starbucks. Sometimes a book fairy will leave little notes or wrap the books to keep the contents inside a surprise for the reader! I heard a rumour that Emma Watson is actually a book fairy! Shh…it’s a secret though. The main goal of a book fairy is to provide books to those who may not have access to new books, but to also spread joy and the love of ones beloved stories to others. Perhaps one day I’ll meet one? Or…maybe I’ll find out I was one all along?

Lastly, free mini libraries. There are so many of these in my neighbourhood, and they’re absolutely adorable! The purpose of these is similar to that of the book fairies. Neighbours can take a book to borrow or keep, and can also leave books inside to share with others. It always makes me happy to see what books are in these tiny libraries, and it’s a lovely way to give back to your community. For those like myself, who are avid readers and constantly running out of space, it is also a wonderful place to donate gently used books to those who might not have access. I highly recommend visiting one if you get the chance, and if you have the means to do so, perhaps donate some children’s, middle grade and teen books to mini libraries located near under funded school districts. Some new parents, and young families may also appreciate seeing baby board books, and books for early readers as well! In my neighbourhood, people always donate children’s books, and the free mini libraries are close to the park. This is great because not everyone has access to transportation, but these are within walking distance of their house.

Another thing to keep in mind is that with book fairies, and free mini libraries, reviews are not a requirement. The goal is to merely share books with fellow bibliophiles, and to spread joy. I think that once I have a place of my own, I would love to set up a free mini library…perhaps book fairies will visit me? I’d love it if they did.

How to Get Free Books – Book Talk Episode 21

I hope that through my reviews you find stories that you absolutely adore, and that this post will also lead you to other ways to not only get your hands on a free book for yourself, but also introduced you to new ways to share books with your community as well.


More Book Talk Episodes

YA Faves

As YA week comes to a close, I’ve found myself reminiscing over some of my old favourite books that I read during my teenage years. […]

We Have Our Winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered the Vermin giveaway contest on Goodreads! We’re thrilled to announce that we have our four winners, and I personally can’t wait to mail out their books.

Hosting a giveaway always seemed a bit scary to me, but I’m glad I did. I will definitely host another closer to the release of book two, so be on the lookout of that, if you’re interested.

Again, congratulations! I hope you enjoy reading Vermin, and thank you for entering the contest.

Want to get your hands on a signed copy of Vermin? Well, here’s how!

Did I also mention it’s free? That’s right! You can win a free, signed copy of Vermin this month! All you have to do is enter the giveaway on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vermin by Ardin Patterson

Vermin

by Ardin Patterson

Giveaway ends March 31, 2022.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Did I also mention it’s my birthday this month? Since it’s also my birthday, the contest winners will also be receiving an additional gift along with their book. I can’t wait to find out who wins! Best of luck to everyone!

Laughing Under the Clouds Vol. 1 – Review

About

Under the curse of Orochi, the great demon serpent reborn every 300 years, Japan has been shrouded in clouds for as long as anyone can remember…

The era of the samurai is at an end, and carrying swords has been outlawed. To combat the rising crime rates, an inescapable prison was built in the middle of Lake Biwa. When brothers Tenka, Soramaru and Chutaro Kumo are hired to capture and transport offenders to their final lodgings in this prison, they unexpectedly find themselves faced with a greater destiny than any of them could have imagined.

Thoughts

I really liked this first volume, and definitely had a few friends in mind who I knew would enjoy this series. My favourite thing about this volume was the relationships between all of the characters in this story, both past and present, and I’m excited to see these relationships grow throughout the rest of the series.

I find it a little funny that this is listed as shojo on Goodreads, because it gives me more of a shonen vibe given the art-style and tropes. This has happened with a handful of shonen series listed on Goodreads, which makes me wonder if it’s possible that they’ve been shelved this way accidentally? If this is in fact actually a shojo due to the minor romance subplot of the story, then I apologize, but also like that’s awesome, because I’ve never read a shojo like this in my life. I know this might be a weird comparison but I liked this, the way I loved Beyblade and Yugi Oh growing up…because the bond between these characters was already so strong from the beginning, and there are overlapping storylines that help build the world. I’d compare the romance subplot to something like Ray and Mariah (Rei and Mao in the Japanese version) in Beyblade. It’s just enough where it doesn’t pull the reader away from all the other things happening in the story. It raises the stakes! Plus the story was cute. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that.

I had so much fun with this story, and loved the world building and characters so I gave it a full 5-star rating!

I think a better comparison than Beyblade would be a film like 47 Ronin, since it has that romantic element to it but it’s an action, adventure with fantasy thrown into the mix. So if you’ve seen that film, you’ll definitely like this manga.

I can’t wait to check out the rest of the series!

Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Check out my other manga reviews and recs!

Ima Koi Vol. 1 – Manga Review

About Sometimes the greatest romantic adventure isn’t falling in love—it’s what happens after you fall in love! After missing out on love and dating because she […]

Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vermin by Ardin Patterson

Vermin

by Ardin Patterson

Giveaway ends March 31, 2022.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


A dying boy
A rebellious girl
History poised to repeat itself

Left for dead at the side of the road in an outlawed town, Nicholas is rescued by a human girl. Plagued by fevered dreams and a lethal illness, Nicholas doesn’t know what to make of her kindness. If she knew what he was, death would be a merciful gift.

Rose takes it upon herself to show the boy hospitality, despite her uncle Roland forbidding her from going near him. She survived the brutal sickness and knows exactly what their guest is going through—he needs a friend.

Roland stands to lose everything when he discovers what Nicholas is. Dire circumstances force Roland to turn the boy into a test subject. However, in coaxing an old flame into helping domesticate the beast, Roland ends up in a cruel experiment of his own.

As Rose and Nicholas grow closer, Roland’s decision to keep the boy’s identity a secret threatens to bring history full circle. Can Roland guard two hearts as he struggles to keep the boy and his future alive?


This giveaway opens March 1st, and will run until the end of the month. Be sure to check out the novel on Goodreads!

Children’s Books I’ve Read in 2022 So Far…

Stacey is a little girl who loves words more than anything. She loves reading them, sounding them out, and finding comfort in them when things are hard.

But when her teacher chooses her to compete in the local spelling bee, she isn’t as excited as she thought she’d be. What if she messes up? Or worse, if she can’t bring herself to speak up, like sometimes happens when facing bullies at school?

Stacey will learn that win or lose . . . her words are powerful, and sometimes perseverance is the most important word of all.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What a charming book! I absolutely adored the illustrations and the story. Both complimented each other perfectly. It’s such a pretty book!


When their train makes a 10-minute stop at the station in Jaipur, a young girl and her mother hurry to get in line for a cup of chai. While the girl waits for her mug of milky spiced tea, readers are treated to the sights, sounds, and smells of the Chaiwala’s cart. The aroma of ginger, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon sticks swirls in the air. Tea leaves rustle, milk bubbles, and the hot drink is poured back and forth until–clink!–the cups are filled and placed on the stand. With a biscuit and a rusk added to their order, it’s time to find a spot to sit and enjoy!
Inspired by the author’s childhood visits to India, Chaiwala! celebrates the pleasures of taking time for food, family, and tradition–even for a brief moment. Illustrated in lively cut-paper collages and filled with scrumptious sensory details, this book is just like a cup of chai–warm, comforting, and good to the last drop.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had the pleasure of meeting the author at work, when she came in and asked to sign some books for us! It was such a cool experience!
I’d read the book prior to meeting her, and fell in love with the story and the beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend adding it to your bookshelf!


A funny, heartfelt, perfectly pitched story about misunderstandings and the importance of true friendship.

When a little girl thinks that her best friend James has been saying bad things about her behind her back, she takes action in the form of the silent treatment. As they go about their day and James tries harder and harder to get her to talk to him, they both realize that true friendship surpasses any rumor… or misunderstanding.

A classic childhood situation is brought to life with humor and poignancy with energetic illustrations by Matt Myers and a simple, telling text by Liz Rosenberg.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read this earlier today, and thought it was a very sweet story. I definitely loved the ending and the illustrations were very pretty. I especially liked the use of the paint splotches throughout, and how they were incorporated onto each page. I thought this was really neat, and it helped compliment the text.
I think this would be an excellent book for elementary teachers to add to their classroom libraries, as it deals with friendship, misunderstandings, and what it means to be a good friend.
I thought how James handled the situation with his best friend was fantastic, because although he doesn’t know what’s upset her, he does everything he can to cheer her up…and that was just incredibly sweet.


Valentine’s Day is coming, which means showing the ones you love how much they mean to you, so Tiny has decided to make the perfect Valentine for his best friend Pointy.

But as Tiny discovers, making a Valentine isn’t easy. It might take a few tries—until Tiny realizes the best Valentine might have been there all along.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Awwwwwww! Okay, this book was too cute. I love the illustrations, I love the dinosaurs. It’s just a perfect book. This was the cutest thing ever! 


Doug the slug needs a hug. But who wants to hug a slug called Doug?

Snuggle up with lonesome Doug on his search for love in this completely charming picture book which shows that you just never know when love might come flying by… (And which introduces an unsuspecting world to snail superstar, Gail!)

A warm and endearing rhyming text by Rachel Bright (Love MonsterThe Lion Inside) is perfectly paired with funny and fabulous illustrations by Nadia Shireen (Good Little WolfBilly and the Beast) in this adorable future classic. 

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Upon completing this adorably funny book, I informed everyone at work that they need to read this book, and recommend it to absolutely everyone. It’s hilarious, it’s cute and that Snail has glasses.
I don’t know what else to say other than I love Doug, Doug the Slug. Someone give Doug a hug.
I needed this book in my life. 


Grub is a lonely racoon. Rumbling in the trash. Looking for food.

Seed is, well, a seed! Patiently waiting in the trash. Hoping someone will plant it.

When the two finally meet, they realize they might be able to help each other! Grub has just one big question first: What will Seed grow? Could Seed grow Grub’s favorite food, mouthwatering cheeseburgers? Seed isn’t sure what a cheeseburger is exactly, but . . . maybe!

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The seeds butt on the back made me laugh, which is why I decided to read the book. I also love that a seed and a raccoon became friends.
As someone who used to adore catching raccoons trying to get at my grandparents tomato plants when I was little, I thought this book was incredibly fun.
The illustrations were wonderful–my favourite being the one where the sun is a giant cheeseburger–and I instantly fell in love with the characters. What a cute book!

7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up: Review

To his friends at Greycliff Academy, Kirby seems to have it all: charm, brains, and a lucky streak that won’t quit. He’s also the notorious hero creating the snarky videos “7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up,” which expose just how dumb adults can be. Why would any kid want to become one of them? But there’s also a mystery about Kirby. And when his best friend, Raja, finds out his secret, Kirby, Raja, and their friends have to grow up fast and face the world head-on. – Goodreads

Thoughts

I definitely enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to older Middle Grade readers (around 12) to early teens. It was funny, and filled with charming illustrations. I also thought the characters were hilarious.
I found some parts of the story had a few plot holes, but I thought perhaps this was because there was a sequel? If this graphic novel does have a sequel I kind of wish the big reveal came then, versus in book one. Overall it was entertaining, and Kirby and the rest of the cast were really great. I’m hoping they will have more adventures.
One thing that I will note is that some of the language used in the book, might not fly with some folks, which is why I think it’d be more suitable for the older half of the 9-12 age group. For example, I wouldn’t let my niece read this right now, and she’s in grade 5. I don’t think the words were anything too major…sadly I can’t recall the ones that stood out to me, but still it did catch me off guard, since I haven’t come across “swear words” in a middle grade book for a very long time. I believe one of the words was turd, which isn’t a big deal, but there was another that I know wouldn’t fly with some parents/teachers, and I wanted to note that here just in case.
Based on the themes of the book, I think this would be a great for anyone in the 8th grade. I laughed a lot at the jokes, and had my heart strings tugged a bit here and there as well.

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m giving this book 4 stars because although I liked it, I feel like there was so much room for character development. I liked all of the characters, and the dynamic between them but at times they felt a little flat and certain plot points were glossed over. I still really liked the story though, and I think it has definite TV/book series potential! If there is a sequel in the works I’ll definitely check it out!

Cruella – Disney Manga Review

I bought this manga for my niece (she’s 9), because I wanted to find an age appropriate manga for her to read and she is a HUGE Disney fan.

Cruella: Black, White, and Red by Hachi Ishie has lovely illustrations, which gave off a mix of the 80s and 90s manga styles. I liked the way the panels were laid out, and how the characters were introduced. I also loved the artwork for each chapter.

I’d like to start off by saying the manga is not an adaptation of the film.

The manga has 3 chapters in total, each covering a part of Cruella’s life, mainly focusing on her between ages 18-21. I actually liked that the book didn’t age her down because it was directed at a middle grade audience.

Horace and Jasper were well developed throughout, but I thought the one character in the leather jacket, who is mentioned by Jasper in a later chapter would be more prominent than they were. It seemed as though this character was being built up to be a major player and then he kind of just disappeared, and then Emilia was introduced. This leads me to the pacing, which in the first chapter I felt was fairly well done, however because the book is set at different points during Estella/Cruella’s years before she becomes a designer, I felt like too much was being crammed into these short scenes.

It almost felt like a manga short story collection instead. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a one off, or a short series, but regardless I enjoyed reading it and I know my niece will love it. I just felt like it needed a little more story wise, so I gave it a rating of 4 stars on Goodreads. I also took into consideration that this is meant for young readers, so it’s possible some of what I felt was lacking is because this is a reimagining of a reimagined character…and I had expected it to cover pieces of the movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall I thought the book was fun, and I would definitely recommend it to young Disney fans who are also looking into reading manga.

One other thing I will note is that this book reads the same as Western graphic novels, versus a Japanese manga, like the Maximum Ride series and most Western made manga.

Blackbird Vol. 1 – Graphic Novel Review

Nina Rodriguez knows a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals is hiding in Los Angeles. When a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. – Goodreads

Let me start off by saying that the artwork for this graphic novel is absolutely stunning. That’s actually what drew me to it initially.

The colours, the line work, the character design, the detail…it’s so beautiful. I was blown away by how nice it looked and on top of that the story was good too!

I’d been meaning to buy this graphic novel for a while, but kept forgetting about it during the lockdown. I’d been given a gift card and decided to use it towards this book, and I am stoked to read the next volume.

There was also a Sailor Moon reference in here, which was too cute, especially since Nina has a talking black cat named Sharpie.

I think the only thing about this first volume, that I wish was done a little differently would be the hinted romance with Clint. Clint is a very compelling character, but I felt that in certain scenes his chemistry with Nina seemed forced, whereas in others it was perfectly. I know first books can be awkward at times, since the writers are still getting a feel for the characters, setting and plot, so I can understand why the balance was off in one or two places.

Other than that, I can’t wait to find out what happens next! I really enjoyed it.

Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This to me is definitely worth 5 stars. The artwork was phenomenal, and the storyline was really cool. Honestly, I hope this gets picked up to be a television series because I would binge that so fast!

I loved Nina’s character, and liked how she narrated the story, and her outfits were incredibly cute. Everyone’s were! The colours and lighting were also perfect. It suited the overall atmosphere of the book, which for me personally when it comes to graphic novels is super important.