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All posts tagged netgalley

The Coffin Path – Katherine Clements

Published February 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’t it all about?:

The Coffin Path is an eerie and compelling seventeenth-century ghost story set on the dark wilds of the Yorkshire moors. For fans of Michelle Paver and Sarah Waters, this gothic tale will weave its way into your imagination and chill you to the bone.

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.

When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Headline publishers and Caitlin Raynor for allowing me to read a copy of this eerie, fascinating novel, set on the Yorkshire moors in the seventeenth century via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I love a good ghost story but haven’t read one in quite some time and definitely haven’t read one that gripped me as much as the story of Mercy Booth and her moors filled with sheep did. It’s an incredibly atmospheric novel and I could visualise the moors that Mercy lives on and the sheep that are in her care in full, glorious detail. The house that she lives in with her father and housekeeper becomes almost a character unto itself with the number of secrets it keeps and the strange noises that have started to emanate from a locked bedroom within the house, terrifying residents and visitors alike.

Our story begins with Mercy tearing out into the inclement weather to assist a ewe who is struggling to give birth to her lamb (more on this scene later) and from there we learn about Mercy’s life, an independent young woman who has taken most of the work of looking after her family’s flock from her father as his health, strength and mind begins to fail. She is determined, strong and fiercely loyal to her family’s business and probably knows as much or indeed more about looking after sheep than her head shepherd does. The novel follows her life as they take on a mysterious new worker, stranger to the town Ellis Ferreby, the family start to discover a number of mutilated sheep on the premises, precious things of her father’s go missing and there are aforementioned curious noises from the bedroom where a young boy once died. Meanwhile, all residents at the property are starting to get an odd sense that someone is watching them and wishes them ill. For what purpose? All will be revealed but the journey to get there might make you want to turn the lights back on if you’re reading this just before bed.

This novel has one of the most brutal and graphic beginnings I’ve ever read and although it doesn’t set the tone for what the rest of the book is going to be like (i.e. not so graphic) I’d seriously go into it with your stomach well fortified! Our main character, Mercy is birthing a lamb and in full, gory detail the process is described to the reader as Mercy struggles to save both the newborn and its mother. I’m lucky enough to have quite a strong stomach (must be the huge volume of horror tomes I’ve read in the past?), and as soon as I read this opening chapter I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Not so much for the content I hasten to add, but for the writing style, the setting and how Katherine Clements pulls you into Mercy’s world effortlessly, where not only can you visualise everything around her but you’re fighting her corner completely and hoping that she manages to save the animals from certain death.

The Coffin Path is very much a book that illustrates the sign of the times where poverty, superstition, rumours of witchcraft and fear of religion – that is to say, what would happen if you didn’t attend church are rife. The author portrays these attitudes and worries perfectly and it’s a fine historical account of what it might be like to live in England in these frightening times. Speaking of frightening, there’s passages of this narrative that I think will stay with me for a long time yet, it was incredibly creepy and disconcerting and there’s a particular fire screen that I don’t think I will ever forget! I loved the whole gothic nature of Mercy’s story and not only was her character written to perfection, instantly making me root for her but she was flawed, vulnerable and undeniably human which I adored. I’m not going to talk about the ending too much but let me just say, if you like being shocked you’re in for a treat here. Unfortunately, I kind of guessed parts of the “big reveal,” but luckily, not everything surrounding it and it was a fantastic way to finish off an engrossing and thrilling novel.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements was the eleventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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Holding – Graham Norton

Published January 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for approving me on NetGalley to read a copy of Graham Norton’s debut novel, Holding in exchange for an honest review. In the UK, Graham is a well respected television  and radio presenter, comedian, actor and now writer and he’s probably one of my favourite people in the public eye at the moment. That means when I heard he was writing a novel of course I was desperate to read it and at the same time a bit worried because I love him as a personality so much. In the end, I have to be honest and say I was a little disappointed with this novel unfortunately. (*hides from barrage of stones from angry Graham Norton fans*). It’s quite a cosy little mystery, yet surprisingly serious at times and I do think that a lot of people would enjoy it which is quite evident from the number of positive ratings on GoodReads. However, it just fell short for me plot-wise and wasn’t thrilling enough to make me want to keep turning the pages.

The novel is set in a small village of Ireland which rarely has anything exciting or dramatic to recommend it. Even our main character, Sergeant PJ Collins has seldom participated in any police business we might normally associate with fighting crime, chasing perpetrators down streets, apprehending burglars, solving murders etc. Duneen is a sleepy, quiet village with a very low crime rate so PJ spends his days quite sedentary, watching over the community and comfort eating in his car. It is only when some skeletal remains are unearthed by some builders on a property and are thought to belong to the previous occupant, Tommy Burke who hasn’t been seen in quite a few years that PJ finally has a case he can really sink his teeth into. Old secrets are finally dug up, in particular regarding Tommy and two women who were in love with him, and PJ begins to realise that his little village, which he thought was so calm and unassuming has a lot more to hide than he originally believed.

There were a lot of positives to be taken from this debut offering from Graham Norton and certainly a lot of things that perhaps a different demographic of reader might enjoy. For instance, I did enjoy the character of PJ, a previously quite hapless, slightly inept and “stuck in his ways” police officer who was actually a really lovely man that just hasn’t had a decent break in life. The finding of old bones and a potential murder case on his patch is really the making of him as a character and I enjoyed his determined attempts to solve the mystery and interactions with other characters in the narrative. However, I did find his character to be probably the better developed ones in the story out of a myriad of other individuals that I didn’t feel were as fleshed out as they could have been. This was unfortunate as there were a number of characters, like Evelyn and Brid that had the possibility of being very intriguing and they just felt a bit flimsy in comparison.

I’m a bit wary of saying anything too negative about this novel as for me it wasn’t a bad story by any means. It’s pleasant, chugs along at quite a nice pace and has quite an interesting mystery at its centre. As I mentioned before, its got quite a lot of positive ratings on Goodreads so perhaps I just fall into that category of reader where it just didn’t touch me as much as it obviously touched other people. Perhaps I was expecting too much, knowing and loving the wonderful personality of the man that is Graham Norton but his writing just fell flat for me which was bitterly disappointing. Maybe the plot wasn’t intricate enough, I didn’t resonate with any of the characters and the “big reveal” wasn’t as spectacular as I had imagined it in my own mind BUT it has got some amazing reviews from other readers so I’m thinking it might be wrong reader in this particular case? Let me know if you’ve read it and what you think, I’d be interested to know.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Bookish Resolutions And Goals For 2018

Published January 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image from: http://msbookish.com/2015-goals-bookish-goals-for-the-new-year/

Hello everyone and welcome to a post that I don’t normally do but for some reason, I thought it might be nice to do for 2018. I don’t normally like to make too many rules and regulations for my blog but due to the sheer volume of the books that I own, the back-list of reviews I still have to write etc. I thought it might be time to set some things down, just to give me some sort of direction for the year ahead. I’ve written down TEN major resolutions and then I’ve slotted in another FIVE general ones (just because once I started I found it quite difficult to stop…oops!) So, here we go!

1.)  Put less pressure on myself to blog every day.

I came a little way to doing this last year when I was ill. I did get to the stage where I just thought: “Oh *%$* it!” but there was still that residual guilt when I didn’t get a post done every day. 😦

2.) Gradually reduce review back-list by continuing to do mini-pin it reviews.

I came a long way doing this last year – to date I’ve done 16 mini-pin it reviews which means sixty-four books that were originally on my review back-list are GONE! Definitely will continue this.

3.) Use notebook to make notes on titles “currently reading” so when I come to review them, things are fresher in my memory.

I recently bought a lovely notebook from Faye at Daydreaming Designs and used it to compile this list and a few other things already this year in the attempt to make me a little more organised!

4.) Be honest with myself if I’m unable to take on a review title especially those requested by authors directly that are not really my cup of tea.

When I first started blogging, I used to love that authors requested me to read their books and used to accept EVERYTHING. Then I realised how stupid this was and that I couldn’t possibly do this and read the things I WANTED to read as well. I have got better at refusing review requests but need to stop feeling bad about it too.

5.) Be better about commenting on other bloggers reviews.

Again something I have got a little better with last year but I still perhaps don’t comment as much as I should. Sometimes I think I’ve got nothing else to say except “Great review!” but even if I just say that it’s letting the blogger know I enjoyed their post.

6.) Attend more bookish events/author talks.

I love doing this and unfortunately chronic illness slows me down in this A LOT. I work in London and there is the potential to attend events after work however if I do that and get home late I’m likely to knacker myself for work the next morning. However, once in a while wouldn’t hurt!

7.) Continue with “Shelfie by Shelfie” meme and hopefully encourage others to participate.

I’ve really enjoyed developing my little meme last year, something I thought I could never do. I have a lot of shelves so there are many, many more shelfies to come and hopefully I can inspire someone else to join in too.

8.) Experiment with making reviews a little “fresher” i.e. use of images relevant to post.

I love bloggers that use images/GIF’s which highlight their content and break up the text a little bit. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this myself but we’ll see how it goes…

9.) Read some of those books I’ve been meaning to get to for years.

For example, A Song Of Fire And Ice by George R.R. Martin, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty and Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters. Some of these books have been on my shelves/Kindle for FAR too long!

10.) Start doing some buddy reads/join an online bookclub.

I’ve never done a buddy read before and it looks like such fun! I already have tentative plans with the lovely Janel from Keeper Of Pages to read The Fireman by Joe Hill this year so I’m really hoping that takes off. Just saying it right here, right now, if I mention a book and you’re open to a buddy read with me – let’s do it!

OTHER CHALLENGES:

  • Increase NetGalley ratio to a more acceptable level. – you don’t want to know my ratio…it’s shameful.
  • Participate in Mount TBR challenge. – I saw this on Jo’s Book Blog and it looks like a lot of fun!
  • Continue to enjoy Banned Books and Kid-Lit with Chrissi. – this should be easy, I’ve done this every year since I started blogging.
  • Read and review Richard And Judy book club picks. – also something I’ve done every year since I started blogging.
  • Read and review Daunt Books from annual subscription each month. – my wonderful boyfriend got me a Daunt Books Annual Subscription for Christmas so I get one new paperback each month. I’m determined to read and review them each month they come in. Let’s see how I do.

So everyone….

Image from: https://www.appbrain.com/app/wish-me-luck/com.Starlab.WML

 

The Art Of Hiding – Amanda Prowse

Published November 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Lake Union Publishing for auto-approving me on NetGalley for this contemporary novel, my first by Amanda Prowse and I was instantly intrigued by the synopsis and the fact that some of it was set in Southampton, a city I know very well through living there for about ten years, going to college and university and getting my first “proper” job out of university there and making some of the best friends I’ve had in my life. By and large I found this to be an enjoyable novel however I’m sorry to say I wasn’t blown away by the narrative. There is nothing wrong with the writing, it’s merely a case of personal preference and I know this book has some fantastic ratings on Goodreads from reviewers who have loved it so please don’t take my word as gold.

It’s the story of Nina, who lives a charmed and privileged life in a huge, luxurious house in an area where places to lives are much sought after and the quality of life is excellent. Her two boys, Connor and Declan attend private school, are doing well academically and have vast numbers of friends. Basically, they are all deliriously happy in their lives and you can almost smell the imminent tragedy just waiting in the wings. Tragedy it certainly is, in the form of Nina’s husband Finn being killed in a car accident. He was the sole bread-winner in the house and took charge of all the finances but Nina isn’t too worried until she is given the devastating news that the family is actually millions of pounds in debt and almost everything they own, including their gorgeous house, has to be taken away from them in lieu of payment.

Nina and her sons are forced to leave their beautiful surroundings and exclusive school and move back to her childhood home, a council estate in one of the less affluent areas of Southampton. The rest of the story follows Nina and her boys as they struggle with their grief for their father, adjust to a completely new way of life where their next meal may not necessarily be the most opulent of offerings and learn to pull together as a family and embrace this horribly difficult period of their lives. Nina herself must come to terms with the fact that she might not ever have really known her husband and learn how to be independent and stand on her own two feet, finding a job, loving and protecting her sons and learning how to make them all a happy family once more.

Let me assure everyone who might be dumbfounded that I didn’t enjoy this book that there are actually a lot of positive things about it and many reasons why other people will love it. Whilst I didn’t particularly warm to the character of Nina, I appreciated the horrific situation she found herself in and the strong moves that she made in order to protect her children, which obviously was going to be her number one priority. Also, there is a moment in the story where you think the author is going to take it a perhaps more obvious, clichéd way in terms of Nina meeting someone. I fully admit, I was all ready to roll my eyes and put the book down in disgust but she really surprised me. She didn’t make it an ultimate cheese-fest, she didn’t make it all about Nina finding another man and instead, deliberately made it much more about Nina looking out for her children, becoming a woman that doesn’t necessarily need to fall conveniently into another relationship. God, I appreciated that!

To be perfectly honest, I can’t say too many negative things about this book. I disliked Finn as a character intensely – I found him controlling and manipulative but my heart still broke a little bit for Nina as she began to see his true colours after his death and realise how much she had been missing out on as she stayed at home where she had little input in many situations. Personally, the mystery behind the huge debt that Finn accrued through the business and his death (which could have been seen as mysterious) wasn’t explored as much as I might have liked and I didn’t feel I connected with many of the characters. Mostly, I think this story was just missing a little something for me, a certain “oomph,” something I can’t quite put my finger on but it just meant that as I read it, I never felt particularly excited. I’d love to know what you think if you’ve read it, please feel free to disagree with everything I’ve said, after all we all get something different out of every book we read, right?

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

October 2017 – Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC month

Published October 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Chrissi Cupboard Month where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (and that’s a lot!). Then there’s Real Book Month where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves (also a LOT!) Finally, there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (A LOT!) October is going to be one of the latter months and here’s what I’m looking forward to getting to this month:

Stranger – David Bergen

(courtesy of Duckworth Overlook Publishers)

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky – Lesley Nneka Arimah

(courtesy of Tinder Press via NetGalley)

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead – Charlie Laidlaw

(courtesy of author)

Rivals Of The Republic – Annelise Freisenbruch

(courtesy of Duckworth Overlook Publishers)

The Art Of Hiding – Amanda Prowse

(courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley)

Is Monogamy Dead? – Rosie Wilby

(courtesy of author)

The Wages Of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Published August 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1882, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, beautifully drawn setting, fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving my request on NetGalley to read this extraordinary novel in exchange for an honest review. I saw Wages of Sin initially on Twitter and it ticked all the boxes for me as a reader. It’s a work of historical fiction (tick), set in Edinburgh (tick) in the Victorian era (tick) that involves a strong female lead character (tick) dealing with a mysterious murder (tick). With so much going for it, there is always the anticipation that it might not be as great as it sounds but luckily I had no worries at all on that account. This book was a fantastic and thrilling debut novel and a truly fascinating look into women in science at a time when it was slightly frowned upon in an arrogantly patriarchal society.

Our main character is Sarah Gilchrist, a highly intelligent woman who dreams of being a doctor but has to leave London after a scandal threatens her standing in the world. She becomes a medical student in Edinburgh and has to struggle on a daily basis with not only the derision of the male students but also the attitudes of her fellow women scholars who become suspicious of her past. Sarah works her fingers to the bone – studying, completing practical and written assessments for her training and then (if that wasn’t hard work enough) assisting a friend at her medical clinic, helping the poor, needy and often “women of ill repute.”

This is where she comes across Lucy, a prostitute who comes in begging for help with an unwanted pregnancy, of course completely illegal in these times. She is turned away only to turn up dead on the anatomy table the next time Sarah sees her. Sarah feels devastated at what has happened but also determined to unearth the secrets of her death, especially when she suspects foul play and discovers tenuous links between Lucy and a professor at the medical school. However, she is treading on very dangerous grounds as some people may desire the secrets that died with Lucy to remain buried and may not necessarily welcome Sarah’s interference.

The Wages Of Sin was an exciting, roller-coaster ride of a novel that had me hooked from page one. Kaite Welsh writes with such a canny eye for detail that you can sense everything in the narrative – the smells, the sounds, the sights and it is brilliantly gritty and difficult to put down once started. Sarah was a fantastic character who was flawed but inherently such a good person and I loved her dogged determination in getting at the truth behind an obviously grisly murder. One of my favourite things about this novel though had to be learning about what female medical students had to suffer when studying to become doctors. They went through abominable treatment being mocked on a daily basis for their choice of career and the lack of confidence in what they could achieve was quite honestly, disgusting. Thank goodness times have changed! For a debut novel, this is an amazing piece of work and so beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and cannot wait to see what Kaite Welsh does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The End We Start From – Megan Hunter

Published August 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z’s small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.

This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees. Startlingly beautiful, Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From is a gripping novel that paints an imagined future as realistic as it is frightening. And yet, though the country is falling apart around them, this family’s world – of new life and new hope – sings with love.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Picador for approving me to read this short but powerful novel on NetGalley in return for an honest review. The End We Start From was subject to a ferocious bidding war following the London Book Fair and I first came across it on Twitter where it seemed to be everywhere. There were even some that thought it might be long-listed for the Man Booker Prize this year. This is why I’m a bit concerned that my review might fall firmly into the realm of the “unpopular opinions.” Don’t get me wrong, the writing is absolutely incredible, so lyrical and beautiful and I was so excited by the synopsis of the book but something just fell a little flat for me. I’m a little relieved to find that I’m not the only one that felt this way (from looking at reviews on GoodReads) but I can’t help but feel that I was missing something and that it’s the sort of book I should have just loved.

We don’t know when the story is set, we are never told. We can assume it’s a dystopian future where (possibly climate change?) has precipitated catastrophic weather changes in the United Kingdom, leading to extreme flooding and the majority of the population having to flee London for dryer areas, many ending up in refugee camps until the waters subside. This is the situation that our narrator, her husband and their newborn son find themselves in. After the chaos of the floods lead to the disappearance/deaths of her husband’s parents, our narrator finds herself then separated from her husband and stuck in a camp where she must form new alliances and find a way of living. Her sole focus is obviously the survival and upbringing of her infant son.

It’s hard to describe this novel in more detailed terms. When I first began, I was very intrigued, especially when our narrator is left on her own with her son. Then, it almost became a meditation on motherhood and the stages that her son goes through as he starts to develop in a strange new world where food and shelter is not guaranteed and the future is uncertain. The characters are referred to just by an initial, so our narrator’s husband is R, her son is Z, etc. I was never quite sure whether this worked for me. It stripped the characters of all their individuality (which may have been the point!) but I never felt like I could connect with them or learn much about them as a result. The author uses quite short, snappy sentences to tell the story which are nothing short of stunning and so poetic and gorgeous but everything was just too vague and detached for me to fully invest with the narrative.

We never know what exactly has happened to the world to cause these  disastrous events, there is no dialogue between any of the characters and at no time did I ever feel really involved with our narrator and her situation. After all the hype this book has got, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed, it really wasn’t for me. The rating I have given it is purely for the beauty of the writing alone, plot wise I was expecting so much more. I’m sure there are people out there that will absolutely lap this novel up and perhaps I need to read it again and just appreciate the language used and the structure of the sentences which the author definitely does have a huge talent for – who knows? If you’ve read it, I’d love to know what you thought!

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art