Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Books I've Read: Every Falling Star

This was a fascinating and heartbreaking memoir about a young boy and his experience growing up in North Korea.  It wasn't particularly well-written, but I read the whole thing in a single day because the subject matter was so compelling.  In a can't-tear-your-eyes-off-the-car-crash kind of way.

After growing up in a priviledge household in Pyongyang, Sungju's life changes dramatically when his father tells him the family are going on 'vacation'. The family leave their nice apartment, their dog and everything they have known to take the train to the far north of Korea where they move into a shack.

It is never made clear what Sungju's father did to deserve this banishment, but it is implied that any little slight can topple a career under this reigime, so it could have been something as small as a glance perceived as subordinate, or something so large as bad-mouthing the leader.

Life in the small town is nothing like life in Pyongyang.  Food is scarce and no one is paid for the work they do, so most people have stopped going to their jobs, preferring to spend their days hunting for food or selling whatever they posess to buy it.

Eventually the situation gorws so grim, Sungju's father decides to make the difficult and perilous journey to China.  He promises to return in a week.  

He doesn't.

Sungju and his mother wait, starving and freezing, until she decides she has to find her sister who might have food.  Sungju begs to go with his mother, but she tells him it's safer to stay put.  She will return in a week.

Sungju finds himself alone and starving.  Parentless and incapable of looking after himself.  His mother does not return and he grows desperate, heading out into the streets in search of food and friendship.

The book follows Sungju's journey from soft, coddled only son, to the feared leader of a street gang who travel Korea's far north, stealing and fighting and begging for what they need to survive.

This is a heart-breaking story from a country we are allowed few glimpses of.  The reality Sungju writes about it very different from the colourful street parades and displays of military power the leaders put on display for Westerners.  I found it fascinating and horrifying while at the same time inspired at human nature's resiliance and ability to survive.

I'd recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in seeing North Korea's reality.

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

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Weekly Goals 23-4-18

My goals are all about revision this week.  Somehow the weekend managed to fly by without me finding any time to work on my story, so I have to really knuckle down and get the thing finished.  Luckily Wednesday is a public holiday, so I'm hoping I will get a few solid hours then in which I can work.

Other than that, I'm still determined to make it to the gym more often, so I'm aiming for four times this week.

What are your goals for this week?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Celebrate the Small Things 20-4-18

This post is part of Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to join up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's Friday!  And yes, I realize I celebrate that fact every week.  This week I'm just celebrating harder than usual because it's been a long, busy week and I'm looking forward to the weekend.  Plus, there's a public holiday in the middle of next week, so something to look forward to for next week.

I finished my story for the anthology and even have 4500 words to spare.  Plus, in an added bonus, they've moved the deadline by a week, so I have until next Friday to revise.  So I am in the throes of revision right now and grateful I have a few words up my sleeve because I think I will need them.

I used to loathe revising, but over the years, I have learned to love it.  I might even venture to say I enjoy it more than writing new drafts these days.  I know!  I never thought I'd ever say that.

I also met my goal of going to the gym during the week more.  I have been three times already this week, and intend to go at lunchtime again today.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Books I've Read: Faceless

This is one of those books I picked up because the cover intrigued me.  Then the blurb sounded interesting enough, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  And I'm glad I did because this is an engrossing, thought-provoking read.

Maisie Winters is a pretty average girl.  She's a high achiever at school, runs track and is looking forward to telling her boyfriend, Chirag, she loves him when they go to prom together.

But one morning while running, a freak storm changes everything for Masie.  She wakes up in the hospital to be told half her face has literally been burned away and that she has been in an induced coma to keep her from feeling the pain.

When the opportunity for an experimental and rarely-done face transplant arises, Maisie's parents are divided over whether this will be a good thing for her.  But having seen the melted ruin of her own features, Maisie decides this will be an opportunity for her life to return to normal and agrees to the surgery.

But far from normal, Maisie wakes up with a stranger's face attatched to her own.  She has scars, a new nose and even her cheeks aren't the same shape they were before.  And when she goes home, nothing is at all normal.

The book follows Maisie's journey as she struggled to accept herself as a new version of the girl she once was, a girl with scars, a girl who has to take huge numbers of immunosuppressents to keep her body from rejecting her new face, a girl who can't run and a girl that Chirag maybe doesn't love anymore.

I enjoyed Maisie's voyage to self-acceptance, even when she made stupid decisions and acted badly toward people who were only trying to help.  I felt her actions and emotions were very realistic and highlighted how difficult it must be to deal with something so life-changing as learning to accept a face that no longer looks like your own.

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

When Maisie Winters wakes up, she’s in the hospital.

The last thing she remembers is running through the hills of her neighborhood one misty morning. Slowly, she puts the pieces together. Before she could make it home, a storm gathered. Lightning hit a power line and sparks rained down, the hot-burning electrical fire consuming her. Destroying her face. Where her nose, cheeks, and chin used to be, now there is…nothing.

Maisie’s lucky enough to qualify for a rare medical treatment: a face transplant. At least, everyone says she’s lucky. But with someone else’s features staring back at her in the mirror, Maisie looks—and feels—like a stranger. The doctors promised that the transplant was her chance to live a normal life again, but nothing feels normal anymore. Before, she knew who she was—a regular girl who ran track and got good grades, who loved her boyfriend and her best friend. Now, she can’t even recognize herself.

New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel has created a gripping and gorgeously written tale of identity and love. This is a story of losing yourself and the long, hard fight to find your way back.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Weekly Goals 16-4-18

I didn't quite finish the story over the weekend.  I did get two really good writing sessions in, and I'm close.  Unfortunately, I feel like I need to change the ending I wrote.  But that shouldn't take too much work either.  So the goal is to finish the story tonight, read through tomorrow and tweak and change whatever needs it (other than the ending) then re-write the ending on Thursday.

It's tight, but I think I can do it.  Deadline is Friday.

Then I have a novel or three to revise...

This week I also want to try and make it to the gym during the week.  Last week I managed one time apart from Saturday.  This week I'm aiming for three times other than Saturday.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Celebrate the Small Things 13-4-18

This post is part of Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to join up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's Friday!

Although it is Friday 13th, so if I was a superstitious type, I'd be worried...

Luckily I'm not, so I'm just going to celebrate the end of the week, and the end of the school term.

Yes, the kids have two weeks of holidays from today.  Unfortunately with the team heading to Cannes in 3 weeks, and a huge event we're having in two weeks, I'm not going to be able to take any time off to spend with them.  Luckily they're old enough now to entertain themselves most of the time.

I am very close to finishing my story.  I hope to get it done over the weekend so I have a few days to revise and polish before the 20 April deadline.

What are you celebrating this week?