Friday, October 18, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 18-10-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

I know, I celebrate that every week, but at the moment, my weeks are so crazy, having a couple of days off each week is definitely something to celebrate.  Especially weeks like this one where I don't actually have anything I have to do or anywhere I have to go.  Except cook Sunday dinner for the extended family, but that's most weeks, so I barely count it.  I like to cook anyway...

Fun fact you may not have known about me: I used to be a chef.

I paid my way through university as a chef (it paid way better than waitressing) and it has been one of those really useful skills I have been able to utilize at various other points in my career.  I also credit being a chef for the way I deal with stress and times when the workload becomes overwhelming.  Okay, in a restaurant you're only ever in the weeds for a few hours at a time, while in other businesses it can be weeks, but if you just focus on each task (or order) until it's done and you can send it out the door, eventually you reach the end.


So there's my profound wisdom for the week.

What are you celebrating?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Books I've Read: I Wish You All The Best

This was an enjoyable read.  Ben is close to finishing their senior year when they decide it's time to stop hiding the fact they're non-binary from their parents.  They're not entirely sure how they will take it, but don't expect to be kicked out of the house.

Ben finds themself on the street and is forced to call the sister they haven't spoken to in ten years.  A sister who also left home under a cloud of parental anger.

The rest of the book follows Ben as they navigate a new life with Hannah and her husband, Thomas.  They think they are going to be able to lie low at their new school, just make it through the rest of the year without any more drama.  They decide to keep their non-binary identity a secret from everyone except Hannah, Thomas and their therapist, not wanting any more chaos in their life.

But Ben doesn't figure on meeting Nathan, the charismatic boy who seems determined to be friends even when Ben deliberately tries to avoid it.  And the more time they spend together, the more certain it becomes that this friendship is moving toward something else.

I enjoyed this book.  Ben was an interesting narrator and their struggles were ones that will resonate with a lot of people, not only those struggling to find their place on the gender spectrum.  Their parents were really terrible and I found it difficult to believe that, having already lost their daughter, they wouldn't have tried a little harder with Ben to understand and to be supportive.  And not the kind of trying that involves demands and threats...

I liked the relationship between Ben and their sister and brother-in-law although it all seemed a little too easy for people who hadn't seen or spoken to each other for a decade.  And Ben would have been a little kid when Hannah left, so the fact they'd never spoken as grown-ups made the quick reconciliation and mutual understanding feel a little false.

Given the reason Ben was forced away from home was their non-binary identification, not a lot of time was spent on that.  I would have liked a little more about Ben's feelings about this, and how they came to the conclusion this was their reality.  There were a few places Ben became uncomfortable with people calling them 'son' or 'man' or using he/him pronouns, but it was never more than a passing thought that they didn't like it.

But apart from that, I found spending a few hours with these people to be a good time.  And Nathan was a worthy love interest.  I think every school has someone like him, one of those people who commands attention just by walking into a room.  Someone whose energy seems pitched just a little higher than everyone else's.

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

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they're thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents' rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben's attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan's friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Weekly Goals 14-10-19

Once again I need to keep my goals limited because work is crazy.

I finished trying to cut 1,000 words from my story and managed to only get rid of about 350.  I need to go back and do another pass, this time being much more ruthless. So that's this week's task.

I've been giving serious thought to doing NaNo this year, just to try and get something new drafted.  But I'm not sure the book I want to write is ready to be written yet.  It's not fully formed in my head and a lot of the side characters are kind of hazy.

Plus, the usual lack of time and energy to write.  I was thinking I'd take a week off work to try and do the bulk of it, but I'm not sure I will be able to.  And if I do take a week off, would it be better to do it at the beginning of the month or the end?  I'm more likely to be able to take a week off at the end, but in reality, I feel like blasting through the words at the beginning of the month might be the way to go.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 11-10-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

I've had another insanely busy week at work and am completely exhausted.  So this weekend is going to be a quiet one.  I have books to read and writing and editing I need to get on with.  I also feel like I should spend a little time with my kids considering it's the last weekend of their holidays and I've barely seen them the whole two weeks.

I've been really good and ridden my bike to and from work a few times this week.  Hopefully the weather will allow me to do it a few more times next week too.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Author Interview: Deidre Huesmann

I'm lucky enough to have fellow Evernight Teen author Deidre Huesmann visiting the blog today.  Deidre is the author of Burning Britely and its sequel, Yearning Young.

Welcome to Fiction and Film!

If you could swap places with one of your fictional characters for 24 hours, who would you choose to be?  Why? And what would you do that day?

Of my published works, probably Maya from the BURNING BRITELY duology. She seems like she likes her life, and has a solid friendship with the main character, Jeffrey. I also share a similar sense of humor as her (though she’s more boisterous), so it wouldn’t feel weird to do.

As for what I’d do… I’d have to mess with Jeff, of course! He’s such a stick-in-the-mud, how could I not? I’m sure Maya would approve.

In what way is your story unique compared to other books in this genre?

For my YA contemporary, Jeff and Braeden’s stories are very close to things I experienced at their age – identifying myself as queer, unsure what to do about it, the military town life ensuring I keep my preferences to myself, the fear, the anxiety… I don’t see much of LGBTQ+ contemporary tackle military city life. Usually the bigotry comes from suburbs or out in the sticks.

In my YA fantasy stories I try to subvert expectations – and it’s getting harder to do in a crowded genre. The more comfortable I get writing LGBTQ+ characters, the more it seems to work. I think I’ll have some very interesting projects out there soon. More recently I’ve been working on incorporating food culture into my fantasies.

Something nobody can genuinely replicate are the senses of humor I instill in my characters. I’m terrible at being witty in person but give me some time and my characters are scathing.

What part of the story was the most fun to write? The most challenging?

YA contemporary isn’t my forte. In the case of BURNING BRITELY, it demanded to be written. I often find contemporary usually restrictive because of the real world, so playing by the rules can be a challenge for me. But the fun part was – and is – the characters. Jeff, Braeden, and Maya are so distinctive and play off each other in a way that I can’t help but smile at their interactions.

Which of your characters is most like you?

Probably Braeden Britely. I have a difficult time drawing myself out of toxic situations – especially at his age. I’m still working on bettering myself there. I also have a character named Natsuki in a WIP I’ve been working on for years, and her weirder sense of humor (especially as a defense mechanism) is definitely me.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?

With great power comes great responsibilities, and I think being a working mom is more than enough! But I guess I would find lack of sleep useful. I’d definitely get more done.

If you could reenact a scene from any book (not necessarily your own), what would it be? Who would you choose for your scene partner(s)?

My sister and I already reenacted Beauty & the Beast (the Disney tower scene) as kids… and I think we could do better now! I’d have us try again. This time I’ll be nice and let her be Belle; she’s tinier than me anyway.

Tell us something we’d be surprised to learn about you.

I have a knack for hurting myself in weird ways. I’ve stabbed myself trying to open a bottle of wine, broke off a toenail falling from a half-foot ladder, gashed my leg trying to shave with a cast on one arm, broken more dishes (and cut myself) trying to wash them than I care to admit, got whacked in the head with a live sandblast hose… I’ve got more but we’d be here all day.

I also have the honor of being the only woman in the family to experience typically genetic pregnancy difficulties. So that was an interesting one…

What other interests do you have outside of writing?

I love drawing! It’s a hobby I more recently got back into; I used to draw a lot in high school but picked it up again a few months ago. Also like playing video games (anything from Stardew Valley to Dragon Age – and I’m PSYCHED for the FF7 remake next year!).

Do you have a nervous habit when writing? A guilty pleasure when writing? (example: chew a pen to death or have a stack of Hershey’s kisses while you write)

I don’t know if I have any nervous habits, but my husband says my face is scary when I get intensely into it.

About Deidre:

A military brat who lucked out and grew up mostly in the Pacific Northwest, Deidre has been reading for as long as she can remember, and writing since a teacher praised her story about a guinea pig in second grade. Now she's is the author of the Modern Greek Myth trilogy, the Secrets of the Sequoia trilogy, and the Burning Britely LGBTQ+ duology. While YA will always be the first love of her life, Deidre is most devoted to her kids, stepkids, and husband.


BURNING BRITELY is book one in an LGBTQ+ YA contemporary duology. Two young men in a military town struggling with their identities, what it means to be queer in a conservative area, and what they mean to each other.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Weekly Goals 7-10-19

I just realized I missed my Celebrate post on Friday.  How remiss of me...  I do apologize.  Last week was so crazy, I must have blanked on what day it was.

But onward, with goals for the week.

I already know it's going to be a really busy week at work, so one again I need to keep my expectations low as far as my own work goes.  So my goal is only to keep working on cutting words from my project.  Ideally I'd like to get through another ten chapters this week.

And apart from that, I'd like to be able to start riding my bike to work again now that it's light later in the evenings.  I had great plans to do it today, then realized I have a screening after work and it will be dark by the time that's finished.  So maybe Wednesday will work.  Fingers crossed the weather is good.

What are your goals this week?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG - October

It's the first Wednesday in October, so it's time for the IWSG.  This month's question is a good one and one I'm very passionate about, it turns out...

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

I don't think you can be a writer if you don't read.  

Maybe you think your ideas are wholly original, but how do you know?  You may be writing exactly the same story thousands of other people have already written.  But equally, you may be writing something no one in the world would want to read.  Or your writing might turn out to be completely un-readable.

Reading not only teaches you what good writing and storytelling looks like, it also teaches you what bad writing and storytelling is.  Without reading yourself,  I don't understand how you would even understand how to write a book.  Or why you'd want to.  I mean, why put out a product you, yourself wouldn't even buy?

I guess the argument could be made that you can learn about storytelling through movies and television shows, but there is a big difference between writing a script (or watching a film) and writing a book.  Writing for film and television is a very different skill than writing novels or short stories and the storytelling onscreen is different to that in books.  The basic structure is similar, but the execution is different. Imagine trying to write a book by describing a film in detail, including the dialogue.  It might resemble a book, but it wouldn't be a book.

As for reading making you less original, yes, maybe a few words or phrases from another author's work might get stuck in your head and unconsciously be spat out on your page, but don't they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery?  And you will be using those words and phrases in a new context in a new story and you may not even have remembered them 100% accurately.

I strongly believe that in order to be a great writer, you must be a reader.  Everything I have learned about writing has come from reading and reading widely.  It's crucial you read within the genre you're writing so you can fully understand the rules and tropes and expectations of that genre.  You can then subvert those, but to do that successfully,  you need to understand them to begin with.

It's also crucial to read outside the genre you write to learn about other styles and tropes you could draw on to make your own work stronger.  You may even discover you want to write something quite different next time...  

So get out there and read a book.  You never know, you might even find you enjoy it!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Weekly Goals 30-9-19

This week is going to be crazy so I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to actually achieve anything major as far as writing goes.  I have a lot of revising to do after getting notes from beta readers, but until I've had time to think through how to make everything work, I'm not going to touch either of those projects.

So right now I'm working to cut 1,000 words out of another book so it fits the word limit for a particular publisher.  It's not difficult work, so it's something I can do while the back of my brain ticks along thinking about the other books and how they can be fixed.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 27-9-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

And oh boy do I need it!

It has been an insane week.  And next week looks like it will be similar, with the addition of two days in Auckland at a conference.  Plus the kids are on vacation from school for two weeks.  I will have to try to take a couple of days off in that second week to hang out with them.

On the plus side, since the kids are on vacation, they can do all the housework for the next couple of weeks.  While I go to the movies or lounge in the sun with a book.  A girl can dream, right?

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Books I've Read: Birthday

Eric and Morgan were born on the same day, their parents bonding over their births after being trapped in the hospital for three days by a freak snowstorm. The have been best friends since birth and have always celebrated their birthdays together (apart from the year they both had chicken pox).

The book opens on the boys’ thirteenth birthday which they are celebrating at a water park. It’s the first birthday Morgan has celebrated since his mother’s death and her cake baking skills are not the only thing he misses. For a long time Morgan has felt different, and he’s finally figured out why: he’s actually a girl. While shrieking their way down a waterslide, Morgan tries to tell Eric this, but Eric doesn’t hear him.

The book follows this pair through their next five birthdays as they grow increasingly further apart.  Morgan struggles with his identity, even returning to the football team for a period, bulking up and trying to embrace the masculinity.  It keeps his father happy and gives him more time with Eric who stuck with football even after Morgan quit.

Eric has his own struggles.  His father is an overbearing bully whose narrow world-view forces both his older brothers to leave home and not return, leaving Eric and his mother to bear the brunt of his expectations.  And Eric is confused about his own feelings, especially after a night where he and Morgan kiss and it feels just like kissing a girl.

As Eric and Morgan grow up over the course of the book, Eric learns about who he really is, and Morgan makes the decision to stop living a lie and to live her life as the woman she knows she really is.

I really loved the way this book was structured, each chapter taking place on the birthday the two MCs share and following each of them through their days. It was an excellent way to show how they grow and change over the course of a year without actually having to see everything that happens to them over each twelve-month period.  The way their relationship twisted and changed over the years was very real, as was the strong thread that constantly held them together despite the challenges.

I would definitely recommend this one.

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

Boyhood meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this unconventional love story by award-winning author Meredith Russo!

Two kids, Morgan and Eric, are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, realize how inextricably they are a part of each other.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Weekly Goals: 23-9-19

I still haven't even finished reading through all the notes I got back from a CP on SHOOK, so I need to keep working through those this week.

Then I need to decide if there's actually any point in keeping on struggling with that story.  I've been working on it forever (it feels like) and never seems to quite get there.  But maybe it just needs to be left to rest for a few weeks again.

And then there's still that ending for Standing too Close that needs to be written....  And revisions on the silly little romance novel to be done.  Not to mention all the other characters and situations I have crawling around my skull right now, just waiting to be allowed out to play.

I think I need to take six months off to write.  Then I might actually get somewhere with all this.

Unfortunately we'd all starve if I did that.  So I will just have to try and scratch up as much time as I can to do all these things.

Which isn't going to happen this week.  I have two evenings in which my elder son has music performances, and one on which my younger son and I are going to his school production.  So there's not going to be any evening writing time for me this week.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 20, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 20-9-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?


Yes, it has been another crazy busy week at work so I am grateful for the weekend.  Not that it's going to be a quiet, relaxing weekend.  It's my father-in-law's birthday so we have a pot-luck lunch with the family on Saturday.  I've made the birthday cake.  I didn't have quite enough icing sugar to make the frosting, so will have to try and make an emergency dash to finish that before lunchtime.

On Sunday my elder son and I are going up the coast to see friend and go to a concert.  It's a Chinese pianist and should be good.  We've been to these before and they always have been in the past.

So not a lot of time for rest and relaxation.  Or for cleaning the house or writing or any of the other things I like to do over the weekend.  But it should all be fun.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Books I've Read: Six Goodbyes We Never Said

There is a lot to like about this book. Both the main characters are truly broken people- and for good reason. Their ways of dealing with their individual losses are very different, and I really appreciated this because everyone deals with things in their own ways.

I just wish the two character voices were more distinctive. Because they were both grieving for lost parents and dealing with complex mental health issues, it was difficult to know who we were following section to section. It got easier toward the end once we knew all the supporting characters and who was important in whose life, but early on, I became confused.

It was also difficult to actually like Naima. I feel like this was intentional, but it's difficult to get into a story when you really wish the MC would fall into a ditch so you didn't need to listen to her whining for a while.

That said, I think the portrayals of the various different coping mechanisms and quirks each of the characters had were very realistic. I also really liked that the adult characters around these broken people let them be themselves and find their own ways to deal with their various issues. They were all supportive and present and loving, but didn't go over the top in trying to 'cure' the kids in their care.

So while I didn't love this one, I did like aspects of it.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read it before release.

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

Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It's causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

Candace Ganger's Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Weekly Goals 16-9-19

I have my fingers crossed this week isn't going to be as nuts at work as last week was!

I have revision notes to go through on two books now, so that will have to be done this week.  And I'm still 50 pages from the end of my beta-read, so that also needs to be finished. Plus I agreed to look over a friend's query, synopsis and first pages for a contest, so that will be incoming this week too.

The priority is to finish the beta-read.  Then the other reading for a friend, then getting through all the revision notes and deciding what to do with them all.  I feel like there is a lot of revision in my future...  Which seems to be a recurring theme in my life.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things: 13-9-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

I was expecting things to be a little quieter at work this week, but I have been stupidly busy and am looking forward to having some time this weekend to get some of the things I want to do, done.  I have not been doing any of the writing I want to do, and haven't even managed to get through the beta -read I'm supposed to be doing.  

So that's what the weekend is going to be about.  When I'm not dealing with the usual chores.  And my son's 15th birthday.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Books I've Loved: Road Ends

I have binge-read all of Mary Lawson's books over the last couple of weeks.  I read Crow Lake many years ago and it became one of my all-time favourite novels.  After re-reading it a couple of weeks ago, I decided to see if Mary Lawson had written anything else, and ordered her other two books, both of which I read over the weekend.

Road Ends is my least favourite of the three, but still a powerful and engaging read.  Like all Lawson's books, it is set in a remote Ontario town called Struan.  There are even cameos from a couple of characters from Crow Lake in there, which I enjoyed seeing.

The book is about a family with eight sons and one daughter.  The father is remote and busy, shut away in his study when he is home and leaving the raising of all these kids largely to his only daughter since his wife seems only to be interested in children while they are still babies.

So when Megan, at the age of 21, decides it's time to leave home, it's inevitable that things might start to go wrong.

The story is told from three points of view: Tom, the eldest son, Megan and Edward, the father.  Tom and Megan's sections are told in third person while Edward's are in first person, almost like a journal he's writing for himself.

Tom is home again at the age of 25, dealing with a tragedy that he feels at least partly responsible for.   He's shut himself off from the world, not speaking or engaging with anyone any more than he has to and keeps to a strict, unalterable routine to keep his world within the boundaries he can cope with.

Yet as things begin to spiral out of control at home, Tom finds himself having to deal with more and more and his carefully built walls begin to crumble, allowing the rest of the world to begin creeping in.

Meanwhile, Megan has moved to London which, after the smallness of Struan is something of a culture shock.  Yet, ever practical and pragmatic, she manages to find work she loves and build a life for herself.  She misses her family, but revels in not having to be responsible for them anymore.

Edward, locked in his study, is largely unaware of the chaos reigning outside the door.  The occasional rowdy fight between his sons drags him away from his reading and he emerges to yell at them, something he regrets afterward because it reminds him of his own father, a brutal man whose shadow he has never really managed to escape.

The emotional and physical isolation of these characters is almost painful to read.  But their eventual growth as they begin to dig themselves out from the holes they have been hiding in is worth the pain.

The ending was disappointing though.  And I think that's why it isn't my favourite of the three novels by this author.  The explanation for the mother's fading from the world didn't ring entirely true to me, and both Megan and Tom disappointed me.  They both had other choices they could have made in the situation, although I do sort of understand why they acted the way they did.  I just wished it could have been different.

But overall, this is another beautiful book by Mary Lawson that illustrates the harshness and isolation and the wild, untamed beauty of small communities in the North of Canada.

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

Mary Lawson’s beloved novels, Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge, have delighted legions of readers around the world. The fictional, northern Ontario town of Struan, buried in the winter snows, is the vivid backdrop to her breathtaking new novel.

Roads End brings us a family unravelling in the aftermath of tragedy: Edward Cartwright, struggling to escape the legacy of a violent past; Emily, his wife, cloistered in her room with yet another new baby, increasingly unaware of events outside the bedroom door; Tom, their eldest son, twenty-five years old but home again, unable to come to terms with the death of a friend; and capable, formidable Megan, the sole daughter in a household of eight sons, who for years held the family together but has finally broken free and gone to England, to try to make a life of her own.

Roads End is Mary Lawson at her best. In this masterful, enthralling, tender novel, which ranges from the Ontario silver rush of the early 1900s to swinging London in the 1960s, she gently reveals the intricacies and anguish of family life, the push and pull of responsibility and individual desire, the way we can face tragedy, and in time, hope to start again.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Weekly Goals: 9-9-19

I've gone back to Standing Too Close, and I think I have at least the first part of an ending now.  And once I start writing it, I'm hopeful the rest will fall into place.  I also have a new piece I want to add in the middle because I feel like something important to the story happens too quickly to be wholly believable.  Adding this little bit will help, I hope...

And I'm reading for a friend, so that will have to take priority this week.  But I will get there.  Eventually.

And that's about it for goals this week.  Keeping them small because I am foreseeing a busy week at work ahead.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 6, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 6-9-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

It has been a really long week at work and I'm thrilled that it's now the weekend.  I have books to read, writing to do, critiquing to do and the usual household chores.  

It's going to be great!

And that's about it...  Hope you all have a great weekend too!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Books I've Read: Pulp

Another fascinating read from Robin Talley.  And this one ambitiously weaves together two stories set in two different eras, both exploring what it's like to navigate life as a girl who likes girls.  And what a contrast it is!

In the present day, Abby is dealing with her life imploding.  Her parents can't stand to be in the same room as each other and the short break she thought she and her girlfriend were taking seems to be permanent.  Her schoolwork is starting to suffer, especially the major project she hasn't even come up with an idea for yet.  So when she discovers a pulp lesbian novel online, she's intrigued and decides she can write something similar, but inverting the tropes of the 1950s style.

In 1955 Janet and her best friend are in love, but have to keep their passion for one another a secret.  Especially when Marie gets a government job at a time when McCarthy's witch-hunts were not just about uncovering Communists.  Unable to live out loud, Janet becomes obsessed with novels about women loving women, even travelling to remote suburbs to trawl through drugstore bookshelves for new volumes.

As Abby's obsession with an author known as Marian Love grows, the lives of these two women, more than sixty years apart, become entangled in a way neither would ever have believed was possible.

I really enjoyed this side-by-side look at different eras.  I knew we'd come a long way, but this really highlights it.  It also gives a real sense of the terror under which lesbians of the fifties were forced to live.  And how a single word or comment could be enough to ruin someone's life and career forever.

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

In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Weekly Goals 2-9-19

I just realized I never wrote these yesterday!  How remiss of me...  I must have been basking in the relaxation of having had an entire weekend (almost) on my own!

So anyway....  Goals for this week.  I'm still working on that stupid ending for Standing too Close.  I think I'm getting there this time though.  Fingers crossed!

Just got back notes on the romance novel, so once I've had a bash at that ending, I will go back to that one and try to fix any issues there.  I haven't read all the notes yet, but I imagine there will be some.  There are always notes.

And that's about it for this week.  Other than work of course, and working out to get rid of the burger butt from all the burgers I ate over the burger festival.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, August 30, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 30-8-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!  And I have the whole house to myself!

Yes, my partner is away on tour with a band, my elder son is at a snow-craft course with the tramping club and the younger son is going to a sleepover birthday party that sounds like it's going to take up most of the weekend.  So I'm going to have the whole house to myself for one entire day!

I don't think I've had that happen to me in years.  I can't even decide what I'm going to do with the luxury.  After I've cleaned the house of course...  Because if it's just me here, it will actually stay clean for more than five minutes.

I finished the first part of a big project at work this week, so I'm pleased about that.  There will be a lot more work to do on it, but the biggest part is done.

I also finished my read-through of the book that's never worked in any of the POVs I've tried, and I feel like it might work now.  If anyone wants to read it for me and let me know for sure, I'd love to hear from you.  It's YA this time, and much more like my other books.

What are you celebrating this weekend?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Books I've Read: Becoming Beatriz

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The subject matter is important and it's a glimpse into a world I haven't seen often in a book.

Beatriz is fifteen. It's 1984 and she loves the TV show Fame and dancing. Then one day, her brother is killed in front of her, a victim of gang violence that plagues the New Jersey neighborhood where she lives.

Now Beatriz has more to worry about than dancing. Her mother is largely catatonic with grief and Beatriz is expected to pick up the reins in terms of leading the gang in its next move against their Haitian rivals and keeping its lucrative drug dealing business running. Things become even more complicated when she meets Nasser, the nerdy new student at school who encourages her to take dance classes with him and tutors her in math so she might pass her classes for once this year.

I didn't realize until after I finished this book that it was a sequel or companion book to another, but it doesn't matter. The story stands alone.

Beatriz is an interesting character. In many ways she's terribly naive, but in others she seems older than her age. Which, given the life she's living, is appropriate. Her voice is authentic, a mixture of street-smart English and her native Spanish sprinkled through it. Her love of dancing is clear, and the parts of the book where she dances are the ones where the book really springs to life.

Other parts of the story don't work so well. Beatriz never feels real when she's with the gang. She never gives any real sense of the loyalty required to not just be in a gang, but to lead it. She doesn't seem to really like her gang-member friends, or behave in a way that would inspire them to follow her.

Her relationship with Nasser also doesn't ring entirely true. He's one of those too-good-to-be-true guys who doesn't give up pursuing and loving her even when she rebuffs him time and time again. She never shares anything of herself with him and their relationship seems very unequal. I don't believe a smart, strong person like Nasser would continue chasing after Beatriz after she'd shot him down that many times. Teenage boys don't have that kind of self-confidence, and Beatriz really doesn't seem like she's a real catch anyway.

That said, this is an interesting look at a culture and a world and a time that is very different to the one I grew up in.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this in advance.

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

Beatriz dreams of a life spent dancing--until tragedy on the day of her quinceaƱera changes everything.

Up until her fifteenth birthday, the most important thing in the world to Beatriz Mendez had been her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting herself and her family far from the gang life that defined their days--that and meeting her dance idol Debbie Allen on the set of her favorite TV show, Fame. But after the latest battle in a constant turf war leaves her gang leader brother, Junito, dead and her mother grieving, Beatriz has a new set of priorities. How is she supposed to feel the rhythm when her gang needs running, when her mami can't brush her own teeth, and when the last thing she can remember of her old self is dancing with her brother, followed by running and gunshots? When the class brainiac reminds Beatriz of her love of the dance floor, her banished dreams sneak back in. Now the only question is: will the gang let her go?

Set in New Jersey in 1984, Beatriz's story is a timeless one of a teenager's navigation of romance, gang culture, and her own family's hard past. A companion novel to the much-lauded Like Vanessa.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weekly Goals 26-8-19

This week I want to finish the read-through of Shook I've been doing.  I'm about two-thirds through, and I feel like maybe changing to a third person POV might have fixed at least some of the problems I think the book had.

Once I'm finished, I'll need a couple of readers.  This one is YA, so if anyone is interested, just holler in the comments.

And then I might be ready to a) finish Standing Too Close or b) start the adult book that's stirring in my brain.  I just need to settle on which POV I'm going to write it from.  I think there are three or four choices, and my brain keeps leaning toward the one that's going to be the most difficult to pull off.  Stupid brain!

And that's about it for this week.  Except for eating more burgers in the last week of the burger festival.  And planning my diet for after it's over so I can lose all that burger weight...

What are your goals this week?

Friday, August 23, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 23-8-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?


It's been a long week at work and I'm looking forward to a couple of days off.  Especially since the burger festival continues and I have a date with my other son to try a different one.  Last week's wasn't fabulous, so fingers crossed this one is better.

One of my colleagues is DJ-ing at a local cafe/bar tomorrow afternoon, so I'm going to meet up with some friends for that, and then I'm going to see Justin Townes Earl play.

So a busy weekend planned!

I had an idea for a new book this week.  Well, actually, it isn't an entirely new idea.  I initially conceived of this idea more than 10 years ago, but when I started working through it, I got stuck on why these two characters had the relationship they have and I ended up writing an entire novel about that.  A YA novel.  Now I feel like I'm ready to write the story I initially planned to write which is about those characters about 15 years later.  My first novel for grown ups!  Not sure how I feel about that, but the story is itching to be told.  I'm just not entirely sure who my POV character is going to be...  I'm sure it will become clear to me over the next little while though.  I won't start writing until I find the voice I need.

What are you celebrating this week?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Weekly Goals 19-8-19

I finished the book I've been working on.  The one I'm not sure quite what is yet.  And I've sent it off to a couple of readers, so I'll have to wait for some feedback before I go back to it.

I started working on that story because I couldn't figure out how to finish Standing Too Close. Unfortunately, I'm still not sure how to finish that.  So while I wait for feedback on the one I just finished, I'm going to go back to another older MS and re-read it to see if it works now.  This is a story that was originally two first person POVs, then re-written as one first person POV and earlier this year I re-wrote again as third person.  I haven't looked over it since then, so it's probably time to go back and see if this third POV shift actually fixed it.

Hopefully after that I might have some idea how to finish the other book.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 16-8-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

After one of those really long weeks, I'm looking forward to the weekend.  Especially since this week I have absolutely nothing planned except dinner with the extended family on Sunday.

The annual burger festival which is part of a month-long celebration of restaurants and food starts tomorrow, and I promised my kids I would take each of them to the burger of their choice.  So I will probably take one kid tomorrow, and one kid next weekend.  I may have to up my gym sessions to counter the burger-fuel because we have a few work lunches planned to try the ones in close proximity to the office too.

My final read-through of the book is gong well, and I haven't made any really big changes.  I will wait to do the final pass for overused words and descriptions etc until after I've had some people read it.  I like to know the story and characters work before I get into those micro-edits.  Hoping to finish the read-through over the weekend so I can get the MS off to readers next week.  If anyone here would like to read for me, I'd appreciate it.  Just be aware this is something quite different to my usual stuff...

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Books I've Read: Postcards for a Songbird

This is a beautifully written book full of unusual descriptions.  It's also one of those quiet books that takes some time to get into, but is well worth it once you do.

It's summer and Wren is trying to figure out how to live without her vibrant older sister who has just disappeared,  Having been abandoned by their mother as young children, Lizzie and Wren have always been close.  Their father is a cop who, after his wife left, disappeared into night shifts and safe routines.

Lizzie, as described by Wren, is vibrant and full of life, the kind of person who fills a room just by stepping into it.  Wren has never needed to figure out her own personality because Lizzie's was big enough for both of them.  But with Lizzie gone, Wren has to figure things out for herself and find her own way to live her life.

This novel follows Wren as she does just that, helped by the mysteriously shadowy boy next door, her sister's best friend who is also trying to find herself, a vehement whole-foods advocate and the boy with a skateboard who just might be the key to changing everything.

The characters in this book are interesting.  The language is so beautiful, it's easy to imagine one or more characters are just figments of Wren's imagination - I think one is, but even now I'm not entirely sure, but I like that.  It makes Wren that little bit more interesting and powerful.  And as she begins to piece together the things that are important to her, the story slides into focus and brings us to a very satisfying conclusion.

I liked this one very much.

Thank you NetGalley for letting me read it in advance.

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

Everyone eventually leaves Wren Plumley. First it was her mother, then her best friend, and then her sister. Now living with only her cop father and her upended dreams, Wren feels stranded, like a songbird falling in a storm.

When Wilder, a sickly housebound teen, moves in next door, Wren finally finds what she’s always wanted—a person who can’t leave. But a chance meeting with Luca, the talkative, crush-worthy boy in her driver’s ed class, has Wren wondering if maybe she’s too quick to push people away. Soon, Wren finds herself caught between the safety of a friendship and a love worth fighting for.

Wren starts to dream again. But when postcards begin arriving from her sister, Wren must ultimately confront why her mother left fourteen years before and why her sister followed in her footsteps. For her new life to take flight, Wren will have to reconcile the heartbreaking beauty of lost dreams and the beautiful heartbreak of her new reality.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Weekly Goals 12-8-19

The film festival is officially over (although there are a handful of extra screenings of popular films this week) so it's back to work for me.

I finished the revision I've been doing and just want to do one more pass through to make sure all the changes I made actually work.  Then it's off to some beta readers to see if they think it's okay.

So my main goal this week is to get through that final pass without finding a million more things to change.

And now, to wrap up the last films I saw over the weekend.

Come to Daddy:  This was great fun.  Directed by an old friend of mine, it's a thriller about a young guy reconnecting with his father for the first time in many years.  Things don't go well, and murder and mayhem ensue...

One Child Nation: A doco about China's one child policy which was really well done, but didn't really tell me anything about the policy and its issues I didn't already know.  But it was interesting to hear Chinese people criticizing it, because when I lived in China you never would have.

Beanpole:  A Russian film about two friends in Leningrad just after the war.  I found this one a little too slow moving for my tastes, and there was very little plot.  The main character was also really hard to get a handle on so I didn't really understand her motivations most of the time.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 9-8-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

It has been one of those really long weeks at work and I'm looking forward to a couple of days off.  And my house really needs a good clean!  The kids have done the housework the last few weeks and they're okay, but this weekend I need to get it done myself to make sure it gets done right.

I have a few more films to see over the weekend, which I'm looking forward to.  But then it's over for another year.  Back to reality I guess.  I'm almost finished this pass through the book I'm working on, so I'm hoping to be able to get it to readers in another week or so.  If you are interested in beta reading a sort of romance, sort of western, I'd love your eyes over it...

I've seen a couple more films in the festival which I enjoyed.

The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash - a doco about Johnny Cash.  I enjoyed it because I love Johnny Cash, but the film was actually a little too long and repetitive and I didn't learn anything I didn't already know about Johnny Cash.  Some nice footage though, even if the timeline was a little weird.

Port Authority - I loved this one.  Again it was about people creating their own families, this time within the trans/drag community in New York City.  A young white guy arrives in New York and winds up on the streets.  A young guy takes him in and gets him a place in a homeless shelter and gives him work as a repo man.  At the shelter, his curiosity is piqued by a guy in the bunk above who dances.  Following the dancer, he discovers a community he knows nothing about and falls in love.  The dancers were incredible in this film; it was like they had no bones they moved so fluidly.  And it was a really touching, beautiful story too.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

IWSG - August 2019

It's the first Wednesday in August, so it's time for the IWSG post!  This month's question is an interesting one:

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

My writing constantly surprises me, both in the process of writing, and once it's finished.

During the writing process, my characters are constantly surprising me with their choices and the things they insist on doing despite my brain really wanting them to do something entirely different.  I'm not an outliner - a couple of pages of rough notes is about as much as I ever do - so I let the characters lead the way.  And their way is often really different from my way.  But I find that if I let them do what they want, the story always ends up better.

After it's finished, I've been surprised a few times with responses to submissions that are over a year old.  With An Unstill Life, I got a response to a request for a full almost two years after the book was published and on sale!  It was a 'no' thankfully.  Not quite sure what I would have done if it had been a yes...  But then, their guidelines did say that if you didn't hear back within six months, it was a no.  I guess I should be flattered that they bothered to respond at all.

The other thing that often surprises me about writing is how ideas for stories come together in my head.  It's like I have a whole cast of characters up there, just waiting for me to figure out where to put them and suddenly a couple of different situations come together in my head, and the people who would be the most interesting to explore within that story just kind of fall into it.  And bam!  There's the basics of the book.

Or else I'll write something short - flash fiction or a short story - and the characters whisper to me that I'm not done with them, that there's more to their story than this tiny moment in time I've captured.  So I have to explore that further.  The thing I'm working on now was like that - a short story I wrote as part of a challenge with my writing group - that's now become a novel.

What surprises you about your writing?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Weekly Goals 5-8-19

The film festival still has another week to run, so my goals for this week are much the same as last week: keep working on the book as much as I can between movies and work.  I got a little bit done last week, and hope to get a little more done this week.

On another note, I got an idea for a book last night, from one of the films I saw.  Not sure it will come to anything, but it's certainly an interesting premise.  I will keep mulling on it for a while and see if it comes to anything.

And now, let me tell you about the films I've seen since Friday.

What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael: A doco about film critic extraordinaire, Pauline Kael.  It was really interesting, but could very easily have been a television doco, despite being about the cinema,  But I enjoyed it anyway.  That woman could eviscerate a film if she didn't like it!

The Amazing Johnathan Documentary: This was one of my favorite kind of docos, one where what the film started out being about was not at all what the film ended up being about.  In this one, a filmmaker making a documentary about a dying magician known as The Amazing Johnathan ends up making a film about making a film after The Amazing Johnathan hires another doco crew to document his life at the same time.  I still can't figure out how much of this story is real and how much is fake, but it was a fascinating story anyway.

Leftover Women: This documentary is about unmarried Chinese women over the age of about 26.  In a society where men outnumber women by 30 million, any woman who is not married before she's 30 is considered a 'leftover woman'.  This film follows three such women as they try to find a match, satisfy their parents' expectations and find happiness.  It was really sad, and I didn't feel like it was very conclusive.  None of the three women seemed truly happy with the choices they made over the course of the film.

Jawline: This was another documentary, this time about the internet phenomena which allows very pretty, non-threatening young boys to become superstars because insecure young girls can watch and engage with them online.  It follows a guy from the middle of nowhere Tennessee as he builds his following, gets picked up by a manager and goes on tour where he appears at meet and greet sessions with these girls.   I totally don't understand this whole thing, but I found the film totally fascinating because it's a world I know nothing about.  It's also a little terrifying...

Will catch you up on the next ones on Friday.  What are your goals this week?

Friday, August 2, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 2-8-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

Actually managing to get some work done on the book even while going to a lot of films. Although I have a feeling this weekend is not going to be productive at all in that area because I have two films to see each day and I still need to clean the house and cook and all those other things...

But first, a little recap of the films I've seen since Monday.

Non-Fiction: a French film about a bunch of people working in the publishing industry having affairs with each other.  This was very French, but not actually all that interesting.

Vivarium: An Irish film that was part satire about the housing crisis and some of the failed solutions Ireland tried, and part nature documentary.  I know it sounds weird, and the film is weird.  But it's also really good.  Really clever use of sound to keep the atmosphere just that little bit off.

In Fabric: Another peculiar film, this time about a haunted dress and the very odd department store that sells it.  I guess this was kind of a horror, but it was also very funny as well as being rather unsettling.  Kind of like The Red Shoes, but with a dress....

Mid90s: Jonah Hill's first film as writer-director is set in the mid-90s and follows a group of teenage skateboarders as they create their own messy little family to make up for their own families who failed them. I enjoyed this one, particularly the soundtrack.

I'll catch you up on Monday on the weekend's offerings.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Books I've Read: Addiction

I really didn't like this book.

Hannah is a good girl who falls into a really creepy, controlling relationship with a drug dealer who becomes obsessed with her.  This was the first part of the story that really didn't work for me.  Hannah is a smart girl with a loving family and good friends.  When creepy Edgar starts following her around and insisting she ride in his car, I couldn't believe she wouldn't have said something about it.  Or called the police.

But no.  She starts 'feeling things' for this guy who is essentially stalking her.  And her best friend, despite noticing she's acting weird and disappearing a lot, doesn't even do anything about it, apparently too wrapped up in her own new boyfriend.  Then Hannah goes on a date with Mr. Creepy just to get him off her back.  And he drugs her and she becomes a sex maniac.  In this scene, I was sure he'd dosed her with Ecstasy, but apparently liquid meth is even better at making you horny for a guy you barely know and don't like to the point of tearing your clothes off and basically raping him.  Despite being a virgin with no experience.

The whole Edgar-Hannah relationship was unbelievable.  Any modern girl would be far too savvy and clued up to fall for his brand of bullshit.  It only becomes believable once he's got Hannah hooked on meth and dependent on him to supply it.  And once she's there, he starts using her for all kinds of other things that she doesn't fully understand because her brain is so fried from the meth.

The rest of the book follows Hannah through her addiction and the delusions it gives her.  It doesn't shy away from the terrible things she does and says to people, or the things she does to herself.  And this part of the book was at least a little more realistic than the earlier part.

Overall, this was probably a fairly realistic portrait of meth addiction, but the way Hannah fell into it did not feel realistic at all.  It's far more likely that a girl like Hannah would have been given a taste of it at a party or some other gathering of people her own age.  The way Edgar pursued her and groomed her just felt so wrong, and her reaction to it made no sense.

So I won't be recommending this one.  It seems I'm in the minority - this book has a lot of great reviews from other reviewers - but I'm sticking with my assessment.

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

Meth, crank, ice, glass, fire, tina, chalk, crystal or crystal meth.
Whatever you call it, it’s the same thing. Addictive.

Drugs ruin people’s lives.
I should know, they destroyed mine.
I’m Hannah and I got hooked on ice. What started as a trickle, ended with a tsunami washing everything away; my family, my life.
I’m not sure you’re ready to read my story; it’s real and confronting.
Open the book, read the pages and see how easy it is for anyone to get addicted.
Ice affects all types of people. It doesn’t discriminate.
It will SCREW. YOU. UP.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Weekly Goals 29-7-19

I'm not going to have a whole lot of spare time this week because of the film festival, so my goal is just to keep working on the book whenever I can.  I think I've made it through the really tricky part, so now it's just tying up all the little things that those changes will have made in the rest of it.

And then the final pass through to add in small details and make sure that it all makes sense now it's been ripped apart and. put together again.

And of course, my other goal is to go to all my films and enjoy them.

I've seen two more since we last met:

Yuli: A bio-pic about Carlos Acosta, a ballet dancer from Cuba who became a worldwide ballet star.  Interestingly, this was kind of a reverse Billy Elliott in that young Costa (called Yuli by his father after an ancient warrior) didn't want to dance but was pushed into it by his father.  The real Costa was a part of the film, playing himself as an older man, choreographing a piece about his life for a dance company in Cuba.  His younger self was also part of the film via television pieces about his career outside Cuba.

A Dog Called Money: A doco about the making of PJ Harvey's album, The Hope Demolition Project.  It follows Harvey through Kosovo, Syria, Afghanistan and the USA where she travelled with an Irish photojournalist and then into the studio where the songs she wrote in response to the things she saw were recorded in a specially-made room where the public could come and watch the recording process.  It was interesting, but even at 95 minutes, I felt like it was a little too long and slightly repetitive.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 26-7-19

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the small things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

I got more work done on the book I ripped apart last week.  After thinking I'd got it all wrong, I figured it out and went back to what I started doing last week.  I think it will work from here.  Think, being the operative word...

The film festival has started!  Always my favourite time of the year.  I have two weeks of movie-going paradise ahead of me and have already seen my first two films:

Maiden - a documentary about the first all-woman crew doing the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.  This was the gala opening night film and it didn't sound that appealing to me.  But I actually enjoyed it very much.  The film is well made, exciting, the women interviewed are interesting and articulate and the filmmakers used the limited amount of archive footage available to good effect.  I came out inspired to do something way outside my comfort zone - but definitely not being at sea for over 150 days!

You Don't Nomi - another doco, this time about Paul Verhoeven's much maligned film, Showgirls.  It was again, very interesting, asking the question about whether this film is actually just terrible, or if it's a kind of satire of terrible that's actually quite wonderful.  It positions the film within the entire catalogue of Verhoeven's films and shows how the same themes and motifs appear throughout.  It talks about how Elizabeth Berkley's career was basically destroyed by doing the film, and how it has become something of a cult film now, especially amongst the drag community who have wildly popular live performances based on the film.  I'm not convinced the film isn't just terrible - I remember it being horrible - but I would certainly be willing to go back and take another look at it after seeing this doco.

More films this weekend, so I will tell you about them on Monday.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Books I've Loved: Bridge of Clay

Okay... So I think I've just found one of my new favourite books. You know that feeling, where you finish and you just want to turn around and start reading all over again? It doesn't happen that often, but when it does, it's breathtaking.

This is by the author of the super-successful The Book Thief. I liked that book very much, so when I saw this in the bookstore while I had a book voucher burning a hole in my pocket, I picked it up. And you know what? I liked it even more than that other book.

Interestingly, I didn't love this book right from the start. It took me quite a while to get into, and unusually, it took me almost a week to read too. But once I settled into the narrative style, and the fractured nature of the storytelling, well... it's well worth that initial struggle.

Bridge of Clay is about a family, the Dunbars. There are five sons, and at the beginning of the novel, they are living alone on the outskirts of Sydney, their mother dead and their father gone, location unknown. They are a rowdy bunch, fighting and scrapping and allowing their pets to pretty much run the household - even the old mule who isn't supposed to be inside, but somehow manages to get in whenever no one is looking.

The story is narrated by the oldest of these boys, Matthew, but the story isn't his, it's his brother Clay's. And it's his mother's. And his father's. And even the girl next door's, the girl Clay falls in love with.

It's a story of grief and love and of forgiveness and about building a bridge. It's about brothers and fathers and sons. It's about first love, and true love.

And it's beautiful.

But it isn't an easy read. The different stories unfold together, in beautifully written bite-sized chunks so no part is revealed quickly or in a linear way. The five brothers begin as one messy, snarling mess of boys and it takes some time before they become distinct, individual characters. And Matthew, the eldest, the one telling the story, takes the longest to get to know. I didn't actually feel like I got a handle on him until right toward the end of the book.

The style of writing initially felt distancing - it was like reading through a layer of gauze - but by the end, my heart was held firmly in the story's vice. Not everyone is going to like the style. It's heavy on metaphor and the descriptions, while beautiful, are sometimes too long-winded. The writing is often choppy and obscure. The whole book feels, at least to begin with, like a puzzle that needs piecing together.

There are references to other books, particularly The Oddysey and The Illiad, and a book about Michaelangelo called The Quarryman and this story mirrors themes and ideas from all three, but not in any way that's simple to follow or recognize.

But it's worth the effort. Oh boy, is it worth the effort! It's one I know I will come back to again and I'll be interested to see if the experience of reading it a second time is different, if some of the things I struggled with this time will be clearer the second time through.

I think I will be recommending this to everyone I know for a while, so I'll shut up about it here for now... Just go and read it. I want to have someone to talk to about how good it is.

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

The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?