Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Future of The Zealous Reader

Hello everyone!

After a very hectic first term of university I've sat down to write about my blogging hiatus and the future of The Zealous Reader. I'd appreciate if you would read about my dilemma and help me decide what to do next.

I planned for a brief 2-3 week hiatus in late August so I could pack, move, and settle in to university life. Unfortunately by the time I was settled in I had no time to read, let alone review and actively participate in the book blogging world. I've only had time to start using Goodreads again in late October. While my academic schedule will be lighter for the winter term I don't want to commit to something only to disappoint once projects and assignments pick back up again.

One main reason for not reading is a lack of motivation. I look at my bookshelf, at the library, at other blogs, and wonder how people can read a whole book. Are you serious? I used to read 3 per week and now the thought of reading just one seems like it will take months. I've managed to read a few non-fiction books over holidays but my only foray into fiction since university have been my novels for English. Jane Eyre, anyone? 

Another main reason for not returning is embarrassment. I left all my followers with no warning or explanation for months. Though many of you have said it's understandable and it happens to most bloggers, I feel like such a disappointment. What book blogger doesn't have a drive to read? Before I left for hiatus I wanted to redesign my blog because I felt it didn't accurately portray my reading style or what my blog was about, but now I have no funds to help with this. I feel like even if I started up the blog again, no one would read it because it doesn't look up to par with the other flashier sites. 

I considered leaving the blog alone till the summer and running it from April to August every year but I don't see my motivation for reading returning. Also my schedule will possibly be even more hectic with work and theatre, and that would be even more disappointing to have all this hype only to disappoint again.

Another option is to start blogging again in January with a new focus. A lighter emphasis on reviews that means I can read what I want, when I want, with no pressure to be on a deadline. Guest posts, interviews with other bloggers or authors, reading lists and recommendations, advertising lesser known titles and 2012 debuts. An easier blogging schedule so I can post 1-2 posts a week with lighter content. I only wonder if anyone would read that and if it has a place next to all the other big-name bloggers who mainly focus on reviews. Would anyone read mine?

So here I am at my fork in the road. I think the best decision will come from you, my followers and readers, since you are who I blog for and you are who I am to impress. What do you think I should do? 

Option 1: Stop blogging. Remove the URL. Say goodbye to the blogging world formally. Perhaps start again sometime in the next few years when I have more time.

Option 2: Summer blog. Plan to run the blog from April to August, reading as much as I can and reviewing all the time. Hope that my followers won't leave during the hiatuses. 

Option 3: Start blogging again in January but with no reviews or reading lists. If I happen to read a book I'll review it but no pressure to read every book on my shelf. Instead a focus on book recommendations, interviews with authors, guest posts with other bloggers, advertising 2012 debuts, etc. 

Comment below, write me an email, send me a tweet, let me know which option sounds best for you. Feel free to elaborate! I want this blog (or lack of) to serve you the best. 

Thank you all so much for your continued support and following. Hoping you're all having a wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley - Blog Tour

Welcome to the bonus stop in Lena Coakley's Witchlanders tour! 

I received a copy of Witchlanders for review from Simon & Schuster earlier this summer. Check out my review and summary! Today I'm interviewing Lena Coakley about some of her inspirations and her writing process. 

1. How did you come up with the world of Witchlanders and Baens? Has it been an idea always floating around in your mind?

There is nothing like writing a novel to see what your subconscious is worrying about.  If someone had told me before I started that I’d be writing about religious clashes, drug addiction, and racism, I would have run for the door, but I think a fantasy novel is a great place to explore difficult subjects. 

I wanted to create two opposite sides, Witchlander and Baen, that both had rich and interesting cultures, but that were both far from perfect.  If I’d written a realistic novel about two warring cultures, every reader opening the book would already have a pre-conceived notion about one side or the other.  But no one has a pre-conceived notion about what it means to be a Witchlander or a Baen.  I wanted readers to eventually be able to see both sides of the conflict—and I hope they do!

2. Witchlanders left off on a bit of a cliffhanger. Will it have a sequel or be part of a series? 

I’m honestly not sure.  I haven’t been contracted for a sequel and I think the book stands alone, but it would be really interesting to see what Ryder and Falpian do in the Bitterlands, wouldn’t it?

3. What are some of your favourite fantasy novels? Do you read much YA fantasy?

Fantasy is pretty much all I read!  (But I’m trying to branch out.) My YA must-reads are:
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
The Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner
The Kingdom Series, especially The Wings of a Falcon by Cynthia Voigt

I could go on and on!

4. Tell us about your writing process! Do you have a writing desk? Can you only write in the A.M.? 

I don’t want to say that I can ONLY write in the A.M. I think sometimes writers make up these rules for themselves and then they become hard to break.  When I have to, I can write at night, but I certainly prefer to write early in the morning, right after a swim.  I usually get so into it that I skip lunch and end up starving at about 3:00.

I have a desk, but I also have a little HP mini that I can take to coffee shops or to the Toronto Reference Library, where I sometimes write with other authors.  I writing on it right now!

5. Favourite flavour ice-cream? 

Green tea!

About Lena Coakley
Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She got interested in young adult literature when she moved to Toronto, Canada, and began working for CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, where she eventually became the Administrative Director. She is now a full-time writer living in Toronto. Witchlanders is her debut novel. Check her out on Twitter!


Since I'm one of four secret blog tour stops I don't have a question for the grand prize Kindle giveaway. If you'd like to enter to win please check out my partner Missie at The Unread Reader.

However I will be giving away one copy of Witchlanders! Contest is open to US/Canadian residents only. To enter please leave your name and email address in the comments. Contest closes September 13th at 11:59 PM EST.

Be sure to check out the other tour stops for August & September!

Monday, August 22nd -The Page Turners
Tuesday, August 23rd- The Unread Reader
Wednesday, August 24th - Books Complete Me
Thursday, August 25th - We Fancy Books
Friday, August 26th - Read.Breathe.Relax
Monday, August 29th - EmilieÆs Book World
Tuesday, August 30th - The Mundie MomÆs
Wednesday, August 31st - Enchanted Ink
Thursday, September 1st- Well Read Wife
Friday, September 2nd - A Journey of Books
Monday, September 5th- The Story Siren
Tuesday, September 6th - One A Day Y.A.
Wednesday, September 7th - Reading Angel
Thursday, September 8th - Soul Unsung
Friday, September 9th - Alice MarvelÆs
Tuesday, September 13th: Announcement of the big prize winner on Lena's Site!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Short Hiatus

Hello followers!

For almost a week I've taken a short vacation from blogging to sort out some last minute details and start packing for my move to university. I have tons of reviews to finish writing but hadn't scheduled any for the time I was gone.

I left a vacation notice at the top of the screen ending today but I've realized that I need some more time to reevaluate how I'll continue blogging once I'm at school. I'm starting to doubt how much time I'll have to read, write reviews, make posts, host giveaways, etc. I'll probably be severely cutting down the number of books I read and as a a result, the number of the posts per week. 

I have a Witchlanders tour stop scheduled on August 23rd but other than that previously scheduled post I probably will not be posting regularly for the next 2 weeks or so. Hopefully when school starts up I'll have a handle on my schedule and be able to tell you what the blog will look like.

Thanks to everyone who has continued to follow during this "hiatus" period. Love you all!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont

Title: Every Little Thing in the World
Author: Nina de Gramont
Publisher: Atheneum
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Date Read: July 25 - 29, 2011
Rating: 5/5 stars 
Source: Library

Sixteen-year-old Sydney Biggs is a “good kid”—smart, pretty, self-aware. No one doubts that she’ll go far in life. But lately her mother worries that Sydney is wandering down the wrong path and getting all caught up in petty teenage rebellion and shenanigans. When Sydney and her best friend, Natalia, “borrow” a car to go to a party and then get escorted home by the police, their parents pack them up and ship them off to a hard-love wilderness camp to stop this behavior before it gets out of hand, before things go too far. The problem is, they already have.

Sydney the “good kid” is pregnant.

In the wilds of Canada—where the girls are to spend the next four weeks canoeing, camping, and foraging for food—time is ticking, because Sydney isn’t sure what she wants to do about this baby. And she certainly isn’t expecting the other heady issues that will confront her as she forges friendships with her adventure mates, including a guy who makes it no secret that he is a major thug, and a teen television heartthrob with a secret of his own, not to mention her own best friend—who is very adamant about what Sydney should do.
You know when you wake up at 5 in the morning to finish a book, that it's one of the best. Not as deep as The Breakfast Club, the quirky cast of characters in Every Little Thing in the World will tug on your heartstrings. An amazing story of self-discovery and self-worth, Sydney's journey in the Canadian wilderness is not only about her pregnancy but also about morality, life, and death.

Many people have complained that there are too many Mary Sues in YA lit. Sydney totally breaks the stereotype of a typical female protagonist. She's a "good girl" but has sex. Shocking! How she starts dating her boyfriend, has unprotected sex, isn't in a committed relationship, and doesn't know what to do with the baby was refreshing in the sea of virgin and sex-crazy narrators. I love how she wasn't cut and dry about her opinions of teen pregnancy and actually took the time to think about them all. Right from the start I thought I knew how she would end up at the end but I was so wrong. Her journey was amazing!

Some of my favourite things in Every Little Thing in the World revolved around the crazy cast of characters at Sydney's camp. I learned so much about the pressure put on teenagers by the rest of the world to define themselves at an early age and always stick to their beliefs. As Sydney struggles to define herself as both a daughter, friend, and possible soon-to-be-mother, we're introduced to other teens facing similar problems. The huge parallels between Natalia and Margit, Sydney and her baby, Sydney and her mother, and Sydney choosing abortion vs Mick killing a man create huge emotional waves and themes for readers to think about. In a very Breakfast Club-like scenario we see how strangers cope when flung together in a survival scenario and how those bonds can never be broken, and are often stronger than the love we share for people we've known our whole lives.

One thing I really dislike in reviews is when readers let their personal opinions cloud their judgment of a book. I've read a bunch of reviews on Goodreads hating on Every Little Thing in the World because Sydney routinely considers abortion as an option. If you aren't open to the concept I suggest you either don't read it or find it within you to write a review based on the actual plot, character development, and themes rather than what choice you'd actually make. I'm glad that more YA authors are open to discussion abortion rather than always shoving it off as not an option or immoral. 

Recommended: I Know It's Over (C.K. Kelly Martin), Someone Like You (Sarah Dessen), Tripping (Heather Waldorf)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (30)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly Wednesday meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine Participants highlight an upcoming unpublished novel they're interested in.

Title: Dust & Decay
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot & Ruin. It’s also six months since Benny Imura and Nix Riley saw something in the air that changed their lives. Now, after months of rigorous training with Benny’s zombie-hunter brother Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny’s best friend Lou Chong are going with them.

Sounds easy. Sounds wonderful. Except that everything that can go wrong does. Before they can even leave there is a shocking zombie attack in town. But as soon as they step into the Rot & Ruin they are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, insane murderers and the horrors of Gameland –where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all…could the evil Charlie Pink-eye still be alive?

In the great Rot & Ruin everything wants to kill you. Everything…and not everyone in Benny’s small band of travelers will make it out alive.
I actually have a copy of this sitting on my shelves TBR but it's so far down on the list that it'll take me forever to get to it. I can't wait for it to be released and everyone to check it out. If you haven't read Rot & Ruin yet definitely check it out!

Did you do a Waiting on Wednesday this week? Post your link below and I'll check it out!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (7)

Top Ten Tuesday is a Tuesday book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish to make lists of our favourite books or book-related topics. For this week's theme I picked my favourite underrated books from my old spring feature Wannabee Book Hipster. I only chose books published before 2011  though since they're usually the most neglected. Great theme idea!

Top Ten Underrated Books

1. The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz. Probably the most popular book from my list, The Vinyl Princess is a hilarious summer read. The spunky, fiesty protagonist will win over your heart in the first few chapters. If you're a music junkie you'll love the band and lyric references and chances are you'll make your own playlist with the mixed tape songs, just like I did!

2. Waves by Sharon Dogar. A poetic summer novel, Waves is the perfect beach read for anyone bored with shallow gossip novels. Also if you're looking for something with more of a family feel to it rather than romance, yet another great choice.

3. My Life: The Musical by Maryrose Wood. As many of you know I'm a fan of theatre and will be pursuing a degree in it this fall. My Life the Musical is the perfect book for a theatre geek. It's filled with show references, lyrics, and a plot that makes me heart swell. 

4. After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr. It's really hard to describe After the Moment because it leaves you with such intense emotions and thoughts. A deeply poetic novel about a boy and a girl who meet one year and the aftermath. Garret Freymann-Weyr is a wonderful author who definitely deserves more recognition for her work. 

5. Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby. One of my favourite LGBTQ books by an awesome Canadian author. I loved how it both enforced and broke down the stereotypes of "gay people". If you're not particularly open to LGBTQ literature this might be a good starter.

6. Grace by Elizabeth Scott. Elizabeth Scott is the opposite of an underrated author but for some reason her 2010 novel Grace has received next to no reviews. Maybe it's because it's not her typical contemporary or comedic romance, but it's an amazing novel nontheless. I applaud Elizabeth Scott for taking the plunge into a different genre and rocking it!

7. Flavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw. I love this book! This was the first non-cookbook food-related book I read and I fell in love. The recipes are awesome and the plot is cute. More people should read Tucker Shaw novels. 

8. After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy.  One of my favourite prose novels of all time! A thought-provoking tale about cheating from both sides of the act, from the perspectives of the two girls it affects. 

9. How I Spent My Last Night on Earth by Todd Strasser. This was one of the first books I ever read that truly tugged on my heart strings. Some people have read it and totally missed all the references, poetic messages, and quotes that make the book so amazing. If I ever found out the world was going to end, this is exactly how I'd want to spend my day.

10. Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony. Another great book by a Canadian author. A very mild dystopian about a futuristic yet rural USA. If you want to take a dip into dystopian without going hardcore, this would be a great choice.

Did you do a Top Ten Tuesday? Post your link in the comments!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Nowhereville by Sean Campbell

Title: Nowhereville
Author: Sean Campbell
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: June 8, 2011
Date Read: August 3, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars 
Source: Author

After his mother's death, sixteen year old Seth Bradley chooses to leave behind his friends, his school, and his entire life within the rusted, broken down space station Ticonderoga. With his sister Jenna in tow, he sets out to join a father he barely knows in the orbital city of Grass Valley, a monument to human achievement floating three hundred miles above the Earth. 

Ava Morales is a girl with a mysterious and violent past. The soldiers of the Democratic Republic of Mars sing praises to her name, but to her family she is a terrible secret.

When Grass Valley is caught in the crossfire of an all-out war between Earth and Mars, Seth, Jenna and Anne must work together to survive as they find themselves trapped in a world that is literally crumbling around them.

This is my first of many reviews celebrating self-published authors for Indie Author Month hosted by Nikki at Wicked Awesome Books. I would definitely recommend Nowhereville if you love YA science fiction or love books with huge cliffhangers for the next books in the series. 

As with many science fiction novels, Nowhereville had an amazing premise. I was immediately enamored with the fast-paced, action-packed plot filled with fancy futuristic references. I loved how it took place in an off-world colony where Martians were simply people who lived on Mars in political turmoil with Earth and the Allies rather than an alien race. I liked the silent nod to futuristic ethics with the treatment of robots and how attached Seth became to Anne. 

As a Martian, Ava was my favourite character because she was the reason the whole battle was started. So little was explained of her family and history that I was dying to read more about her. Unfortunately her alternating chapters ended about halfway through the book and she just disappeared from the story. Hopefully in the next book she plays a larger role because she was fascinating, fierce, courageous, and mysterious. Exactly what I like in my female characters!

In keeping with the air of mystery and suspense, Sean Campbell left many questions unanswered that will hopefully be addressed in the sequel. However this meant I was confused for most of the book about the history of the off-world colonies, the reason behind the political rebellion, and why there was a farm. A flashback, a prologue, or a map would've helped a lot. Sometimes the suspense worked perfectly because things were revealed in bits-and-pieces to keep you reading, which is always fun when you're reading about a new world and civilization. 

Recommended: Across the Universe (Beth Revis), I Robot (Isaac Asimov)