Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

I decided to spice things up this Tuesday and forget about Teaser Tuesday. Instead I'm doing a Top Ten Tuesdsay, a weekly meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is 

Top 10 Books That Should Be In Your Beach Bag

I've been compiling my summer reading list and "beach reads" are my favourite to include. I love the mix of summer, romance, adventure, and humour!

10. Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
9. Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman

8. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
7. Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson

6. Waves by Sharon Dogar 
5. The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

4. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

2. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
1. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Did you do a Top 10 Tuesday this week? Leave your link in the comments and I'll be sure to check it out!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Love Inc. by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout

Title: Love Inc.
Author: Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Date Read: May 19 - 26, 2011
Rating: 4/5 stars 


Zahra, Kali, and Syd would never have met if their parents' marriages hadn't fallen apart. But when the three girls collide in group counseling, they discover they have something else in common: they've each been triple-timed by the same nefarious charmer, Eric, aka Rico, aka Rick. Talk about eye-opening therapy.

Cheerful, diplomatic Zahra is devastated. Rico had been her rock and sole confidant. How could she have missed the signs? Folksy, flirtatious Kali feels almost as bad. She and Rick had only been on a few dates, but they'd felt so promising. Hardened vintage-vixen Syd is beyond tears. She and Eric had real history... Or so she'd thought. Now all three girls have one mission: to show that cheater the folly of his ways.

Project Payback is such a success, the girls soon have clients lining up for their consulting services. Is your boyfriend acting shady? Dying to know if your crush is into you? Need match-making expertise? Look no further than Love, Inc.

Wow! I was really excited to read Love Inc. because it's my first 2011 debut Canadian author novel of the year. It did not disappoint. While I originally read it for it's Canadian-ness and cute cover, I stuck with it for it's awesome plot. 

In most contemporary romances boy and girl meet, fall in love, have some sort of problem and overcome it. Not in this book! Zahra dates several boys throughout the novel and is never quite satisfied with them. I rarely see novels where the female doesn't absolutely adore her crush/boyfriend so it was refreshing to see such a feminist and strong character that could look at a boy and say "Meh, I can do better". Also in most romances if the boyfriend cheats on the girl she'll just mope around or take him back. Zahra, Kali, and Syd teaming up to take revenge on Eric was awesome! 

There is a lack of multicultural or coloured characters in YA literature, a fact that has prompted Diversity in YA. I was really excited to read about Zahra's culture and how it influenced her behaviour and relationships. I found it sort of typical that she had rejected most of her Muslim traditions and as a result her overbearing immigrant grandparents tried to force them back on her. I'd love to read a novel with more liberal elders or a character accepting her ethnicity rather than ignoring it. I really appreciated all the details Yvonne & Sandy researched about Islamic festivals and food, it made the novel more realistic. I didn't really understand how Zahra ended up Caucasian with red hair when her Mother is Pakistani and had hoped that it was just a poor cover choice, but it was referenced several times that Zahra was "fair-skinned". Hmm.

One of my favourite aspects of the novel was it's humour! While some of the plot was unrealistic or unoriginal, Yvonne & Sandy made up for it in laughable quotes and hilarious scenarios. They took the typically tragic event of a divorce and turned it into an awesome tale of teenage love and payback. Another point that lent well to the humour was a cast of quirky characters. From Zahra's sister Saliyah to Syd's Dad's girlfriend to Dieter the cousellor, there's something for everyone! If you're single, engaged, or recently ex-ified, you'll feel a connection to this awesome story about love and framily.

Quote: "Shopping for love at the big box store, shopping for someone I can adore. I asked you for paint you said satin or glossy..." Kali muses, "What should come next?" "That's when I noticed your teeth were all mossy?"

Recommended: The Year of Secret Assignments (Jaclyn Moriarty), A Match Made in High School (Kristin Walker), Miss Match (Wendy Toliver), Flavor of the Week (Tucker Shaw)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Books For Thought

On Sunday I usually showcase the books I picked up this week at the library for The Story Siren's In My Mailbox. Unfortunately I didn't go to the library this week. I'll be sure to pick some up next week though!

Instead I'll be participating in Books for Thought, an awesome meme from Eleni at La Femme Readers. Every week she posts a book-related discussion topic for everyone to reply/comment on.

This week's topic is: 

When you are called a nerd for loving books, how do you feel?

I feel awesome! I love doing lots of nerdy things like reading books, watching Star Wars, running a blog, etc. If nerd means that I advocate for literacy and am amazed by how empowering novels can be, then yes I am a nerd. A lot of my book club friends and I call each other "book nerds" because it's basically all we talk about when we hangout. While I wish more people read or opened their bookshelves to new genres/titles/authors, I would never say to someone "You don't read enough books, therefore you're not a book nerd". 

Also, when someone calls me a nerd it's usually after I mention "I'm reading a new book!" Some people could sulk or walk away but instead I take it as an opportunity to say "Yeah, I'm a nerd, but this book is really good". I use the label as a chance to introduce a non-reader to the world of books. 

Check out Eleni's blog for her opinion and the rest of the responses.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Armchair BEA: Blogging About Blogging

Welcome to Day 5 of Armchair BEA!

Today's discussion post is Blogging About Blogging. In all of the reviews, reading challenges, giveaways, and interviews we usually lose sight of the fact that we're actually blogging rather than just talking about literature. I for one don't acknowledge that "Wow! I have a blog! Wait, am I a good blogger" and usually just trudge on doing what I do every week.

Today I'll be using the prompt questions in an interview-like scenario.

How do you utilize social networking in relation to your blog? What are the pros and cons?

When I first started blogging I had no idea how powerful social networking could be. In April I created a Twitter account (see the button on the sidebar) and I've gained at least 20 followers since. Twitter is such an awesome way to stay up-to-date on releases, blogging events like ArmchairBEA, and connecting with other bloggers. It's a lot easier to send someone a tweet or retweeting their posts than to send a long-winded email, and it shows other bloggers that their Twitter is actually being used. Unfortunately many people follow you on Twitter but don't actually read your tweets, something that can become frustrating when you're doing polls or surveys.

What are your tips for balancing life and blogging?

Make a schedule! In the first few weeks of my blog I would spend hours tinkering with formats, designs, fonts, and my reading pile suffered as a result. Since March I've stuck to a strict schedule of posting once a day at 7:30 AM every day. To help with this I set aside about an hour a day to check out Google Reader, make adjustments, update my to-read-list, and schedule posts. Scheduling posts has become a life-saver for me! A healthy measurement to keep in mind is read twice as much as you blog.

What genre do you blog about and why?

The Zealous Reader is a young-adult book blog, meaning I mainly read and review young adult titles. I have reviewed a few crossover novels but I would never review something that didn't have YA appeal. I'm not a huge fan of paranormal romance or Clique-style novels but I've been trying to expand my horizons so more people can enjoy my blog.

How do you keep your blog fresh and interesting to your readers and yourself?

Try something new! If you've noticed yourself getting into a slump re-evaluate your blog. Do you still like the design? If not, change it up! Is it tiresome to write 4 reviews a week? Why not cut it down to 2 and add a meme! I have found that features or posts with more comments are usually more popular than ones without, and as a result I've cut down on the number of Teaser Tuesday's I post. Most followers don't like seeing hundreds of memes every day so I'd advise you to stay fresh by posting reviews, something only you could write and no one else.

What are your favourite blogging events and why? How do they affect your blog directly?

I love blog hops! I've only participated in one but have signed up for the Canada Day one in July. They're a great way to win novels, be introduced to new blogs, and market yourself to a new audience. I also participated in Bloggiesta in January and will be participating again in June. It's a great way to learn HTML editing, how to work Google Docs, and a chance to meet new bloggers. 

Check out some of the other Armchair BEA posts for more tips on blogs and blogging. If liked my post, feel free to comment below or send me a tweet!

Wannabee Book Hipster (5)

Wannabee Book Hipster is a weekly Saturday post by The Zealous Reader. Every Saturday I will feature two novels I loved with under 200 reviews on Goodreads. Hopefully this will give underrated authors more publicity and diversify "to-read" piles.

Sharon Dogar
March 6, 2007
The Chicken House

“Where is she? And what was she doing out on the waves that night?”

For Hal, now, this summer is different. Sure he’s spending it, as always, with his family at their cottage on the wild west coast of England. But this summer he meets Jackie, beautiful, impetuous Jackie. Lying with her on the beach while she sculpts mermaids from wet sand–it’s paradise. Or would be, if only he didn’t keep hearing the desperate pleas of his lost sister Charley in his head . . 

For Charley, then, last summer was different. Pete, the impossibly gorgeous surf god, wanted her, she couldn’t believe it! To lick the sand off his lips, to let the sun tan the outline of her hand over his heart–she’d do anything to be with him. Even if it meant sneaking out and leaving her tagalong brother Hal behind. Just for one night. How could she have known what would happen by dawn?

Set at a beach where growing up goes wrong, Waves is a coming-of-age mystery about first love and tragic loss. About a family drowning in sorrow, and the courageous son struggling against the tide to save them.

Am I Right or Am I Right?
Barry Jonsberg
February 13, 2007
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Calma Harrison is in love. Not just with herself, but also with the handsome checkout guy at Crazi-Cheep. So stocking shelves at the Crazi- Cheep seems like the perfect job—until that annoying customer tries to hold up the store. . . .

And then there's the small matter of the rest of Calma's life, which is fast falling apart: her absent father turns up after five years and wants to "talk," her mother is clearly living a secret second life, and her new best friend is hiding something horrible.

Calma is sure she knows exactly what's going on. And clearly her direct, personal intervention is required to make things right. 

Except . . . if she's wrong. And then her butting in will make everything much, much worse.
Am I Right or Am I Right? is a whip-smart, wise-cracking, big-hearted novel about a girl who is learning that things are not always what they seem, and how to start again when you've gotten it all so very wrong.

If you'd like to post your own Wannabee Book Hipster, leave a link in the comments.

Wonderland by Joanna Nadin

Title: Wonderland
Author: Joanna Nadin
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: August 3, 2009 (UK) / February 22, 2011 (US)
Date Read: May 15 - 18, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars 

Sixteen-year-old Jude has to get out of tiny Churchtown. She has to escape her outcast status and her pathetic dad, who hasn’t gotten past her mother’s death. The one bright light is drama, her way out, if only she can get into the Lab, a prestigious program in London. Then Stella, Jude’s childhood best friend, swaggers in after years away. With bold and magnetic Stella by her side, Jude knows she’s capable of anything. But Stella’s influence extends well beyond the theater. Soon Stella’s wild and dangerous streak begins to cause trouble for Jude -- yet Jude can’t bring herself to abandon Stella and the attention she’s always craved. And besides, now that Stella’s back, there’s no stopping her. In Jude’s dark and tangled story, British author Joanna Nadin plumbs the aftermath of loss and the consequences of becoming the person you always wished you were.
She’s back. Jude’s childhood friend -- sexy, daring Stella-- returns to their stifling hometown, and life will never be the same again.

I'm struggling to write this review because Wonderland has such a complex plot, I wouldn't want to taint, ruin, or spoil anyone's reading experience with my review. I'm going to veer away from analysing plot logistics and just stick to my favourite parts.

As someone who's pursuing theatre studies post-secondary I deeply empathized with Jude and her confusion about the future. Joanna Nadin perfectly captured the struggle arts students encounter when asked "Are you sure you want to do this forever?" While I wished that more drama rehearsal scenes had been included I still felt satisfied with how accurately the world of theatre schools and auditions was portrayed.

One aspect of Wonderland I didn't like was the bullying. Many authors these days choose to write their protagonists as bullied yet uber cool teenagers who need to overcome their insecurities in order to finally stand up to their bullies. Seeing as this novel was so different from many that I'd read I had expected the bullying scenes and scenarios to be unique or original but instead followed the same beautiful-popular-girl vs boring-protagonist-girl. Hopefully other authors in the future will branch out and look at other ways of writing bullying.

I love novels that cover so many different topics without being "about" any single one of them. Some people would classify Wonderland as a contemporary novel but I disagree because it could have been set at any time and still been as effective. Other would say it's a novel about suicide or teen sexuality or romance or death, but those are all just things that Jude experiences rather than things that her life revolves around. In truth Wonderland is just a book about a girl and  what happens to her one summer in England. 

Favourite Quote: Unfortunately I returned the book to the library with my favourite quote sticky note still inside! Ah! I'll try to come back and re-add the quote later.

Recommended: Choker (Elizabeth Woods), Crank (Ellen Hopkins), Leftovers (Laura Wiess)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Armchair BEA: Nurturing Book Blogger Relationships

Welcome to Day 4 of Armchair BEA!

Today's discussion post is Nurturing Book Blogging Relationships. As I've noticed in other post throughout the day, blogger-to-blogger interactions are very easy to talk about seeing as it's the most common communication bloggers do. As someone fairly new to the book blogging community I can only give advice on the "newb" side of the table.

Here's a few steps for what to do after you hit the "follow" button.

1. Follow
Chances are you've just pressed the Google Friend Connect (GFC) button, but there are many other ways to follow this new blog. Many bloggers have branched out into various social networking platforms such as Formspring, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Check out some of their other profiles to follow them elsewhere.

2. Research
Did you glance at the blog's About Me page, read the first page of reviews, and hit follow? Most of us do. There's a world of reviews, discussion posts, and interviews behind the first page though. Take the time to read weeks or months worth of reviews. Maybe try to find a review of a book you recently read and compare notes. So many bloggers appreciate it when their older reviews receive just as much attention as their newer ones.

3. Comment
Did you really like a review you just read? Were you honoured to be mentioned or linked to in a post? Are you just as excited about that 2011 debut novel? Why not share! Feel free to comment on any of the posts you like. Some people, including myself, are hesitant to simply write "Me too!" and opt to say nothing instead. Over time you might feel more comfortable with reaching out to other bloggers, and in return you'll be recognized as a regular devoted follower rather than just a lurker.

4. Discuss
Most bloggers feature at least one "discussion-like" post a month, whether it be on a controversy in the book community or analysing LGBTQ teen literature. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the blogger's opinion, start a conversation about it! Send them a tweet, email, or message letting them know that you liked/disliked the post. Keep it positive and constructive (remember, you're trying to nurture not destroy relationships) and see where the conversation might lead you. Most of my strongest relationships with other bloggers were initiated by one of us actually "talking" to each other rather than just commenting.

Check out some of the other Armchair BEA posts for more tips on interactions with bloggers, publishers, and authors. If you have other tips to add to my list (or simply want to say hi), feel free to comment below or send me a tweet!

YA South Asian Novels

South Asian Heritage Month is an annual celebration in Canada of immigrants from South Asian countries and their cultures. The subcontinent of South Asia is comprised of 9 countries: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, Maldives, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

In honour of this commemorative occasion, I have made a list of YA novels set in South Asian countries. Enjoy!

Title: Babyji
Author: Abha Dawesar
Publisher: Anchor
Release Date: February 8, 2005
Country: India

Bamboo People
Author: Mitali Perkins
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Release Date: July 1, 2010
Country: Burma

Title: Beneath My Mother's Feet
Author: Amjad Qamar
Publisher: Atheneum
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Country: Pakistan 

Title: Broken Moon
Author: Kim Antieau
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release Date: February 27, 2007
Country: Pakistan

Title: Climbing the Stairs
Author: Padma Venkatraman
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: May 1, 2008
Country: India

Title: Elephant Run
Author: Roland Smith
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: September 25, 2007
Country: Burma

Title: Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: April 1, 2006
Country: India

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: Seal Books
Release Date: June 4, 2001
Country: India

Title: Monsoon Summer
Author: Mitali Perkins
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Release Date: April 11, 2006
Country: India

Title: Naming Maya
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: April 6, 2004
Country: India

Title: Shabanu
Author: Suzanne Fisher Staples
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: October 7, 1989
Country: Pakistan

Title: Sold
Author: Patricia McCormick
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: September 15, 2006
Country: Nepal & India

Title: Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
Author: Shyam Selvadurai
Publisher: Tundra Books
Release Date: August 14, 2007
Country: Sri Lanka

The Shalmar Code
Author: Mary Louise Clifford
Publisher: Flux
Release Date: September 1, 2006
Country: Pakistan 

Title: Under the Pessimon Tree
Author: Suzanne Fisher Staples
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: August 8, 2005
Country: Pakistan & Afghanistan