Book Blogger Confessions – Deadlines

Book Blogger Confessions is a new(ish) meme run by Tiger at All-Consuming Media and Karen at For What It’s Worth. Every first and third Monday they post a new question to open up discussion about common frustrations to book bloggers. Link up your post on either blog and hop around to listen to and learn from your fellow bloggers!

This week’s question is:

Deadlines for reviewing and blogging. Do you set them? How do you keep them? What do you do if you can’t meet a deadline?
I typically operate with soft deadlines, meaning when I accept a book for review, I calendar a date by which I want the review posted. I also enter it in a spreadsheet that tracks all of my pending review books, and prioritize the list based on the release date. Books with closer release dates get read first, as those are the dates around which I schedule my reviews.

These dates are not set in stone, however. The longer I blog, the more lee-way I give myself to push those deadlines back as needed. When I first started, I was incredibly rigid about my deadlines, but this led to me reading a lot of review books and very few pleasure books. This is a big reason (if not the reason) that I have stopped accepting review copies. I make an exception for NetGalley, because I have more self-control where those books are concerned, and I’ve made a conscious effort to only request books I know I want to read.

If I’m coming up on a deadline and I haven’t gotten around to reading the book, I push the review posting date back to a time when I think I’ll read the book. For a lot of my review copies, this has happened with embarrassing regularity, and it’s reached the point where I may have to contact the authors and tell them I can’t review their books.

Finding the balance between a blog made up entirely of review deadlines and one with a structure so loose that nobody cares to read it anymore is harder than I first thought. I thought deadlines would give me structure and allow me to plan my blog out to well-oiled machinery perfection, but what I ended up with was a joyless blog that consisted of lots of reviews and memes with little room for spontaneity. I have more demands on my time than ever, and blogging has taken a back seat. I still have a long list of books to read and review, but my posting schedule has more room on it now for interesting discussion topics that may come up or new memes I want to try without having to schedule them three months in advance.

Deadlines give me structure, but I can get a little crazy with them. I’ve found that without them, however, I tend to push everything off my plate and get nothing done. I’m still looking for that happy medium.

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Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Book: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: April 12, 2011
Source: Borrowed from library
Series: Razorland #1

Summary from Goodreads: In Deuceâ??s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed â??bratâ?? has trained into one of three groupsâ??Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clearâ??to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. Sheâ??s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothingâ??s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuceâ??s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesnâ??t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks heâ??s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders donâ??t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; sheâ??s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuceâ??s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategyâ?¦ but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world sheâ??s ever known.

First impressions: I couldn’t put it down! Could not. I started it on a Saturday night right before bed, and stayed up until I was halfway done. The next day I picked it up and read it straight through to the end. Two sittings and it was over! Few books give as strong of a first impression as that.

Lasting impressions: A taut, suspenseful, realistic dystopian that kept my skin crawling in all the best ways.

Conflicting impressions: I had the same thought as Amanda. Deuce? Her name is Deuce? Please tell me this is a joke.

Overall impressions: I love post-apocalyptic stories. I love strong female characters. I love mysterious cute male characters. I love dystopias where the strong female character doesn’t know how bad things are until she gets a new perspective introduced by mysterious cute male characters.

I knew I was going to like this book. I didn’t know I’d love it.

Ms. Aguirre creates a world so richly detailed that it completely absorbed me. As Deuce stumbled blindly through dark subterranean tunnels, fighting off rabid zombie-like “Freaks,” my heart pounded. I turned the pages so fast I nearly tore them from the book. I had to know what was going to happen! This world was dangerous and surprising and really kept me on my toes. Kudos for the well done suspense.

Deuce is a fairly typical protagonist for a dystopic novel. She’s a bit naive about how the system is working against her, rather than for her. She’s idealistic and wants to contribute to their strict society. She doesn’t like to ruffle feathers. She believes she is being protected and cared for, and that the information she receives from her elders is true and correct. Over the course of the book, we come to realize that her life is not as grand as she thought it once was.

Fade is an outsider in Deuce’s community. He’s not well looked upon, and is only allowed to stay because he’s an excellent Hunter. When he and Deuce are paired together, it’s a punishment of sorts, and she doesn’t want to be stuck with the guy whose last partner died. Deuce is excellent at what she does, and like Fade, is constantly out to prove herself. As they work together to check traps and fight off Freaks – who seem to be getting smarter and more vicious – they are forced to develop a bit of trust. Their relationship gets cemented after a grueling journey to a nearby camp, and it’s at this point that Deuce’s world view starts to change.

It would take all of the fun out of the book to reveal the events that affect Deuce enough to drive her above ground for the first time in her life, and what course her life takes when she’s out from under the authoritarian enclave. The second part of the book reveals a whole new world to Deuce, with different challenges, and it’s where she really is forced to make tough choices.

One of my favorite things about this book is that no one is all good or all bad. The characters each do things that are valiant and despicable. Someone who once was an enemy may become a friend, and friends can always betray you. Deuce can truly only rely on herself, her instincts, her skills as a Huntress, and her humanity to guide her life’s journey. Despite the hellish place America has become, Deuce is determined to persevere.

I can’t wait to see what the next stage in her life brings. Book two, Outpost, is out this fall, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Writing Wednesday – You Need a Notebook

Writing Wednesday 2
Flashes of inspiration are not few and far between for me. I’m constantly inspired by the world around me – things I read, things I see, things I hear. Ideas fly at me from all over the place. I’m an ideas kind of person.

This should be great news, right?

Except.

Except that this flow of information always comes in…and then flits away into the recesses of my brain, never to be heard from again.

I’ll be reading a passage in a book and start analyzing what’s going on and think “WAIT! I have an idea! What if the world is dying, but it’s because of x. And y is the only one who can fight x. And if y does z in this really interesting and unique way…I could make a really interesting story.” Then I’ll nod to myself, acknowledge my genius, and file it away for a more convenient time when I can flesh out the idea, returning my attention to the book or task at hand.

Except.

You know where this is going don’t you? Of course you do. Because unlike me, you are not an idiot. You are a smart, organized, “with it” guy or gal who knows better than to let ideas sink into the deep, dark parts of your (presumably human) brains without jotting a backup note to yourself.

I, however, am an idiot. I let these ideas roam unchecked through my grey matter, and hardly ever never take the time to write them down. I assume that my addled, aging mind will miraculously change course and start remembering more than it forgets, so OF COURSE I will remember every single one of these amazing, fleeting ideas and OF COURSE they will take precedence over the far less important list of Things To Remember like mere work or family engagements.

After struggling for the past two months with crippling writer’s block, on Monday I was hit with an idea not just for a vague project in the future, but for the book I’m working on now. And as much as I wanted to just keep reading my book on the train, I decided that since my purse was right in front of me, I should grab a scrap of paper and a pen and just WRITE IT DOWN.

So I did.

And then I went back to reading.

When I got home, got myself and the dog fed, I whipped out that piece of paper and my laptop, and BOOM. The scenes started flowing. The words poured onto the page. Before I knew what hit me, I had 1,600 words down, and a solid sense of direction for the next few scenes to follow.

An obvious lesson, yes, but an important one nonetheless. When I have these ideas, I need to write them down. Immediately. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – eating, reading, sleeping, talking on the phone, writing a blog post – just WRITE IT DOWN.

Logan. You need a notebook.

You need to write it down.