Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Books I've read: Carrie Soto is Back


Unlike most of the world, I was not a huge fan of Daisy Jones and the Six, but I have read another, earlier book by Taylor Jenkins Reid which I enjoyed, so I thought I'd give this one a shot.

It follows the career of Carrie, a tennis player at the the top of her game, holding the record for the most Grand Slams won.  She retires while she's at the peak of her career, knowing she's the best.

But seven years later a hot young player called Nicki Chan is hot on the heels of beating that record and Carrie just can't stand to be beaten.  So rather than let that happen, she comes out of retirement, gets her old coach (her dad) back on board and decides to compete for one last season to try and hold onto her record.

Carrie has always been fiercely determined.  She has a single-minded focus on winning and won't let anything or anyone get in the way of her getting what she wants.  This earned her the nickname Battle Axe when she was on the tour the first time, and no one is that thrilled to see her return.  Especially the sports journalists who don't believe she has a chance against the new generation of players.

But nothing has changed in Carrie's personality during her retirement.  She will still do anything to win.  Even play with the lover she once spurned, Bowe Huntly, a player hoping to make one last splash of his own before retirement.

I really enjoyed this book. The details of the behind-the-scenes world of elite tennis felt authentic and Carrie is a fascinating character in her single-minded pursuit of her goals.  She's not terribly likeable a lot of the time, but maybe you can't care too much about that if you're trying to be the best.  As she fights her way through her final season, you find yourself rooting for her even when she's behaving obnoxiously.  

And she does change by the end of the season.  Maybe not as much as you might hope, but in reality, how much do people ever really change?  Maybe sometimes a little can be a lot.

So I'd recommend this one.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular.

By the time Carrie retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Slam titles. And if you ask her, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father as her coach.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning, British player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked the 'Battle-Axe' anyway. Even if her body doesn't move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all: Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells a story about the cost of greatness and a legendary athlete attempting a comeback.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Weekly Goals 27-11-23

 The year is rushing away at alarming speed!  Can you believe it's December this week?  I haven't even started thinking about Christmas yet.  I should probably get onto that...

I didn't get any writing done (or indeed anything) done over the weekend.  We went out of town on Friday night (in terrible weather I might add) and made it to our accomodation.  We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant then went back to the Air B & B and hung out, listening to the rain and speculating if it was going to stop any time soon.

The next morning we got up early and packed ourselves up to drive up the road to the air show.  It was pretty fine when we first got up, but by the time we got to the aerodrome, it was pouring again.  And cold.  We parked the car just in time for the organisers to pull the plug and postpone the event until Sunday.  We'd only booked the accommodation for one night, so going back there wasn't an option.  We debated trying to find somewhere else for a second night and staying over there, but in the end we decided it would be cheaper to drive home and then back the next day.

So we did.  Which meant most of Saturday was gone by the time we got home.  And we left at 7:30 on Sunday morning to get there again.  Luckily the weather was better on Sunday and most of the planes we were supposed to see managed to get there.  Not all of them though.  My son was a bit bitter about one he really wanted to see not making it.  But at least he finally got to use the tickets he got for Christmas in 2020.  There have been a lot of cancellations...

Anyway, that was a very longwinded way of saying I didn't get any writing work done over the weekend.  And I doubt I will get any done next weekend either, since I already have plans which will take up most of both days.  Maybe the following weekend...

God knows when I'm going to get any Xmas shopping done....

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 24-11-23


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!  And we're going away.  Only for a night, to take my younger son to an airshow he's very excited about. But it's a night away from home!  Although there is supposed to be some pretty dreadful weather this weekend, so I have my fingers crossed it won't be cancelled (again).  It could be a kind of miserable experience anyway, but I'm hoping for the best,  And packing my raincoat!

Another busy week at work, but I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.  It still feels manageable at the moment, so that's a good thing.

I haven't had a chance to look at Guide Us again, but that's probably a good thing.  I should leave it a week or two before I go back in, let the changes settle and my brain let things go a bit before I go back to see if they work. But I'm deftly determined to finish this before the end of the year.  I'd like to get my first queries out in January and early February, before the Festival starts and consumes my life for a month or so.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Books I've Read: Girl on the Run

I've read and loved almost all of Abigail Johnson's books so I was excited to discover this one when I was looking for something to read on my Kindle. 

It's about a girl called Kaitlyn who has never really thought to question her mother's intense over-protectiveness, why they move so often and the odd things she's forced Kaitlyn to learn.  Her mother has been the only constant in her life, so Abigail just adores her and goes along with these things.  But when she gets her first boyfriend, she starts thinking that her mother deserves the same kind of happiness and without asking, sets up an online dating profile for Mom.

She expected her mother to be annoyed, sure, but she'd get over it when she realised how happy she could be.

She did not expect her mother's reaction t be so extreme.  Within minutes of finding out about the dating account, Kaitlyn and her mother are on the run, stealing cars and holing up in seedy motel rooms as they escape from something Kaitlyn can't even begin to understand.

To try and keep her safe, Kaitlyn's mother leaves her alone, but it isn't long before trouble knocks on the motel room door and Kaitlyn is forced to run herself.  As she tries to track down her mother and find out the truth about herself and the past her mother had tried desperately to keep from her, she discovers things about herself and her capabilities she could never have dreamed of.

This was a fast paced thriller with a few good twists and turns.  Every chapter ended on a cliff-hanger, daring you to turn the page and keep reading.  It just felt a bit formulaic and I never really warmed to Kaitlyn or the guy she grudgingly begins to trust as they hunt for the truth.  And I won't spoil it for you, but the ending really didn't do it for me.

It feels very much like a first book, so I wasn't that surprised to discover in a an author's note at the end that this was an early book for Johnson and that she always loved it and dug it back out after publishing some of her other books and gussied it up for publication.  I have books like that.  Early attempts that I still feel enormous affection for.  Characters that still haunt me.  I just know they're not good enough to be published and I'll let them linger on my hard drive for my eyes only.

I kind of wish Johnson had done that with this one.  It's not terrible, but it's not great and her other books are great.  So I don't really recommend this one. Read something else by Abigail Johnson and you won't be disappointed.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb: 

A fast-paced original paperback thriller about a girl who discovers that her mother might not be who she says she is . . . and now someone is hunting them both.

Katelyn wants the best for her widowed mom. Surprising her with an online dating profile seems like a good idea.

It isn't. Katelyn's mom hasn't just been acting overprotective all these years--she's been hiding something. And now that anyone can find them online, Katelyn is in a desperate race against time to uncover the secrets of the past--not only her mom's, but also her own.

As Katelyn's world unravels, she begins to trust the guy who brought this nightmare to her door and to doubt the one person she never thought she would. Because her mom has been hiding for a reason: she's been waiting.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Weekly Goals 20-11-23

 Well, I did it.  I finished Guide Us (again).  All I need to do now is do a full read through to make sure the changes I made and the new timeline are fully bedded in.  I also have a couple of scenes I wrote and cut back out because they didn't work in those places that I'd like to try and find spots for.  But that's more a nice-to-have than an essential.

I think this might be one of the better books I've written.  I could be wrong there, but it feels like something quite special.  If anyone wants to do a beta read for me, I'd love some fresh eyes on it in a week or two.  Given how late in the year it is, I think I'll probably leave querying until 2024, so there's plenty of time.

In terms of goals, I'd like to get that read through done this week, but we're going away over the weekend, so I suspect I may not get to it until the week after.  And I guess I need to start thinking about Christmas.  People keep telling me it's only about 30 days away..

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 17-11-23

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's been a busy week, but all very enjoyable stuff.  I got to go and see one of my favourite singers, Kristen Hersh,  play a solo show last night, which was really fun.  It's been a few years since I've seen her and she always does the coolest shows.  She's an amazing storyteller, and her stories are always as much fun as her songs.

The weather isn't supposed to be great over the weekend, so I'm hoping to get a few hours to really get stuck into the one chapter of Guide Us where I need to add some stuff.  Not 100% sure I'm going to get that time since I have quite a few other things I need to do over the weekend, including catching up with the friend I was with in Samoa in July.  But we shall see!

I need to try and get all the chores done this week too because next weekend we're going away for an airshow which was my son's Xmas present last year.  It was supposed to happen in March, but when the cyclone hit the Hawkes Bay, all the airforce planes were going to be used for cyclone relief, so they moved it into November.  I'm not massive aviation wonk like my son, but it will be nice to get out of town for a couple of days.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Books I've Read: Brother & Sister Enter the Forest


I picked this up at the library because the title was kind of fairy-tale-like and it intrigued me.  But this is no fairy tale!

The book begins with Justin showing up on his sister's doorstep needing a place to stay.  She hasn't seen him for several years and is reluctant to let him in.  As kids, Willa took care of Justin, protected him from their mother's clear dislike of her son.  But after Justin's actions wrecked havoc on her own life, Willa has tried to keep away from him.

But when it becomes clear that Justin has nowhere else to go, Willa lets him stay.

Willa lives a carefully ordered life, working as a nurse and building dioramas re-enacting her childhood trauma in her spare time.  She isn't close to anyone except her childhood best friend and likes to keep it that way, even with her boyfriend.  But Justin tries to get to know all the people in her life and she's uncomfortable with this.  Especially when the strength of their bond is tested as Justin's sobriety wavers.

The books plays out in two timelines: the present where Willa and Justin are adults, struggling to recover from events in the past,  and those past events that led to the strain in their relationship.

As a teenager Justin got involved with a slightly older man and convinced himself he was in love because this guy offered him an escape from his home and his mother's disapproval. But when he commits an horrific act of violence, he and Justin go on the run and the repercussions damage Justin and his family forever.

I liked the slow way this book unfolded with little details being dropped in here and there. It took until well into the book to fully understand how damaged Justin really is and even longer to figure out why.  And once you understand all these things, Willa's actions early in the book make a lot more sense.

I like a book that takes its time to reveal the truth and this one did that masterfully, keeping things compelling enough that you wanted to keep reading, even when the characters were behaving in truly dreadful ways toward each other.

So I'd recommend this one.  It's quite heavy in places, but it's a book about trauma and its effect on people long after the traumatic event so one kind of expects that.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Opening like a fairy tale and ending like a nightmare, this cannonball of a queer coming-of-age novel follows a young man's relationship with a violent older boyfriend—and how he and his sister survive a terrible crime

After years of severed communication, Justin appears on his sister’s doorstep needing a place to stay. The home he's made for himself has collapsed, as has everything else in his life. When they were children, Willa played the role of her brother’s protector, but now, afraid of the chaos he might bring, she’s reluctant to let him in.

Willa lives a carefully ordered life working as a nurse and making ornate dioramas in her spare time. As Justin tries to connect with the people she’s closest to—her landlord, her boyfriend, their mother—she begins to feel exposed. Willa and Justin’s relationship has always been strained yet loving, frustrating and close. But it hits a new breaking point when Justin spirals out of control, unable to manage his sobriety and the sustained effects of a brain injury.

Years earlier, in high school, desperate to escape his home life and his disapproving, troubled mother, Justin falls into the hands of his first lover, a slightly older boy living on his own who offers Justin some semblance of intimacy and refuge. When Justin’s boyfriend commits a terrifying act of violence, the two flee on a doomed road trip, a journey that will damage Justin and change his and his family’s lives forever.

Weaving together these two timelines,
Brother & Sister Enter the Forest unravels the thread of a young man’s trauma and the love waiting for him on the other side.