Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Books I've Loved: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

I read this one in a day.  Once I picked it up, I just couldn't put it down.  The whole idea of a kid living in a hospital because he couldn't bring himself to leave after his parents died there really resonated with me.  I also really liked that he thought Death was after him, even though I recognized early on that Death was not who Andrew thought she was.

Andrew is one of those fiercely loyal people and I loved the way he tried so hard to protect everyone around him from Death too.  And the way he helped his friends out, even when it got him in trouble.  It's nice to see a character who empathises with others and acts selflessly.

The main character writes a comic as a way to pass the time and excerpts from this are scattered through the book.  Patient F, the comic's hero, is shown not to be as heroic as Andrew might initially have thought and through recognizing this, Andrew begins to understand his own situation better.  I didn't love the comic, to be honest, but that's just me.  I don't really read comics and I rarely enjoy them.     I still really enjoyed the book, just skimmed over the comic book sections.

If you don't believe me, here's the blurb:

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.

Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.

A partly graphic novel.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Weekly Goals 28-9-15

I've been making steady progress on my revision and haven't found it too hard to get through five chapters a week.  So I will continue at this pace.  I like not feeling too pressured about revising because I know November will be intense with NaNo.

That said, I have a fair bit of travel coming up for work in October, so it might be a good idea to get a few extra chapters under my belt if I can, because there are probably at least five days I won't get any work done.  So my goal for this week is to get through 6 or 7 chapters if I can.

The kids are on vacation for two weeks, but I think I've found enough things to keep them busy.  Thank goodness for grandparents!

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: 25-9-15

This post is part of  Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things (Lexa has just taken it over from VikLit who has hosted it for the last 2 years). Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?

I managed to get some revising done this week.  Not as much as I had hoped, but there is still the weekend, so there's hope.  I did do a bunch of reviewing for my long-neglected critique group, so that's a plus.

The kids finished school yesterday and have 2 weeks vacation now.  I'm not sure that's something to celebrate or not, given how much work I have at the moment.

The sun came out for a while yesterday.  It's raining again now (as it has for the last 10 days), but the forecast is for sun again tomorrow.  I hope it's correct because this winter has started to feel very very long.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THAT Book - Into the River

Since I read THAT book over the weekend, I thought I should make my Wednesday book post about it.  The post is not called 'Books I Loved' like it usually is, because I didn't love this book.   But I still feel like it's worth talking about.

After all the controversy about this book, I had to read it to find out what was so damn awful readers can't be left to decide for themselves whether or not to read it. Having read it, I still don't know the answer. Yes, there is some sex. Some drugs. Some homosexuality. But nothing I haven't read in other young adult books. In fact, all these things are fairly minor parts of what isn't actually a great book.

There are several problems. To begin with, the time period remains murky. Kids have cell phones at the school, but Te Arepa's mother is in hospital with Tuberculosis. Life on the Coast is described so it feels like last century, while in the city, we're in the modern world. This does not reflect the reality of life on the East Coast.

But my main issue is with Te Arepa's lack of growth and passivity. He never makes anything happen. Things happen to him. Things happen around him, but he never drives any of the action himself. Therefore, he doesn't really change much through the course of the story.

Overall, I was disappointed with this book, both because it won an award and is very mediocre, and because all the hoo-ha about it is totally unfounded. But it's good news for the author because now tons of people will buy it when it gets back onto the shelves just to see what all the fuss is about. So the laugh's on you, Family First.

And because I always add it... Here's the blurb ( that really tells you very little about the book):

When Te Arepa Santos is dragged into the river by a giant eel, something happens that will change the course of his whole life. The boy who struggles to the bank is not the same one who plunged in, moments earlier. He has brushed against the spirit world, and there is a price to be paid; an utu to be exacted. Years later, far from the protection of whanau and ancestral land he finds new enemies. This time, with no-one to save him, there is a decision to be made.. he can wait on the bank, or leap forward into the river.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Weekly Goals 21-9-15

Firstly, I should clear up something from my last post.  When I said that one of our films had won at Venice, it isn't a film I made - thanks for the congratulations, but it's unearned.  The organisation I work for partially funded the film, which is why the whole office was celebrating.

Now, on to this week...

My goal is to get through another 5 or 6 chapters of revision.  I don't see that being too difficult because  I don't think I have a lot of extra stuff on this week.  Although I'm not sure what shape the upcoming chapters are in...  I could be speaking too soon!

I've been reading the banned book over the weekend and hope to finish it today. So far I can't find anything in there that's even remotely controversial and am slightly baffled at the people who are demanding it be taken off shelves.  Not to mention slightly terrified about what prospects my own books will have in this country if something so unthreatening can get people riled up enough to ban it.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things 18-9-15

This post is part of  Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things (Lexa has just taken it over from VikLit who has hosted it for the last 2 years). Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?

Can I say that it's over?  It's been a long, hard week and I'm very glad it's over.  I've been so busy my revising hasn't been going as smoothly as I wanted it to (although I'm still on track in terms of my timing).  I'm just feeling a little exhausted.  Which isn't great since next week is the last week of school before the kids go on vacation for two weeks.

But for now, I'm celebrating the fact I get two days off work.  My oldest son turned 11 on Tuesday and tomorrow we're having his party at the swimming pool.  Fingers crossed I can get through the afternoon with all 10 kids un-drowned!

One of our films won at the Venice Film Festival at the beginning of the week, so today we had a fantastic, hour-long Italian lunch at work.  Everyone brought amazing food and even now, at almost 9pm, I'm still feeling stuffed. It was a really nice way to end a crazy week, even if we did all have to go back to our desks and finish up the day afterward.  I think we were all a little happier than before lunch though, thanks to a rather potent tiramisu!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Books I've loved: Not After Everything

I just finished this one over the weekend and it's still lurking around in my brain.  The story isn't a particularly new one - a boy loses his mother and pushes everyone else away in fear of having to deal with the pain of losing someone else, only to find happiness and love again with a misfit girl.  But this book does that story really, really well.

The characters are well drawn and real.  Tyler is vulnerable and proud and angry and confused.  He blames himself and the fact he put his football career above everything else for his mother's death.  He takes his father's abuse because he feels like he deserves the punishment. That, and he's afraid of being put into a foster home if he lets anyone know how bad it is.

Jordyn's life, in comparison, looks easy.  Loving parents, even if they are divorced, a great step-dad with a cool job that offers her employment too, talent and a bright future.  But this veneer of perfection is just that - a veneer.  Underneath, Jordyn is hurting too.  Maybe not as much as Tyler, but still...

The way this couple come together feels right.  It's not insta-love.  Both of them have to work to make the relationship happen.  And once things do start happening, it's not a smooth and easy road.

If you don't believe me, here's the blurb:

Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her? But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekly Goals 14-9-15

I'm happy with the revision I managed to get through last week, so I hope to keep up the momentum and get through another 5 or 6 chapters this week.  It's weird.  I'm a relatively quick writer, so when I'm drafting, I probably will write a chapter in just over an hour or so.  Yet when I'm revising, it will often take me twice that to get the chapter right.  No wonder I always spend about twice as much time revising each book than writing it.

And that's just my first round of revision!

It's going to be another busy week at work.  I have a lot of stuff to get through this week, but I'm confident I can do it, as long as I just put my head down and get on with it.

It's my son's 11th birthday tomorrow, so I have to get things organized for that and his party in the weekend.

What are your goals for the week?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things 11-9-15

This post is part of  Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things (Lexa has just taken it over from VikLit who has hosted it for the last 2 years). Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?

I started revising My Murder Year, and so far it hasn't been nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be.  I finished this book in late December last year, and haven't looked at it since, so I feel like I have a good amount of perspective on it now.  I'm surprised at how sassy my main character is.  I don't remember writing her that way.  I've also been surprised by some really lovely lines.  Fingers crossed it keeps being surprising in a good way!

A YA book was banned in New Zealand this week.  It feels like we're returning to the dark ages.  I haven't read the whole thing yet (but you'd better believe I'll be first in mine to buy a copy when this all blows over), but I did get a look at some of the more controversial parts of it while I was at a protest about the banning.  All I can say is, if this is enough to get a book banned in this country, I'm screwed.  The person who has instigated this would probably demand the banning of Stumped after reading page 1.

I have absolutely nothing planned for this weekend and am looking forward to just lazing around for a change.  Oh, I'll have to do housework and stuff, but other than that, reading, cooking, eating and maybe watching a movie here or there.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Books I've Loved: A Trick of the Light

This is an interesting one. I've written about several eating disorder books here over the past few months, but this is the first and only one I've read where the ED sufferer was a guy. And it's fascinating to see something as familiar as anorexia through a male perspective.

The need for control is the same, the need for acceptance. Yet the way the outside world looks at Mike is very different to the way anorectic girls are seen. Mike is recognized as being sick, while so often girls are accused of vanity or attention seeking long before anyone realizes they no longer have any perspective on their looks or the amount of food they eat.

I'd definitely recommend this on simply because it looks at a rarely seen group - young men suffering from a disorder that is considered the domain of women.

If you don't believe me, here's the blurb:

Mike Welles had everything under control. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they're getting confusing at school. He's losing his sense of direction, and he feels like he's a mess. Then there's a voice in his head. A friend, who's trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that's holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Weekly Goals 7-9-15

I've had my mini-break now (and no, it doesn't feel long enough, but that's my own fault) so it's time to dive into revisions on My Murder Year.  I haven't even read through the whole MS since I finished it in December, so I think I'll be coming to it with nice, fresh eyes.

I have a number of things I already know I need to do - I'm changing the ethnicity of one character which will change his backstory a little bit.  Also, while I was writing, one of my supporting characters took on a much bigger role than I anticipated and that's going to change a lot of things earlier in the book.

I'm excited to get back into it.  The book I just finished was big on character and the shifting dynamics between them, but light on plot.  This one is much more plot driven and deals with all kinds of things like body image, gay marriage, mental illness and anomalies in the legal system.  I just hope I can carry off all these weighty themes.

I'm not going to kill myself over this revision.  It's likely to involve a lot of rewriting so I'm only aiming to get through 5 or so chapters a week.  Maybe 6 if I'm lucky.  At the moment there are 37 chapters so I figure it will take me 6-7 weeks to get through.  Which is about perfect because my goal is to finish this revision in time for NaNo.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things 4-9-15

This post is part of  Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things (Lexa has just taken it over from VikLit who has hosted it for the last 2 years). Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?

I finished my book!  Yes, I finally managed to write those two amazing little words: The End.  I know there is a lot of work to do in terms of editing, but for now, I'm done.  I'm taking a few days off before diving into edits on last year's NaNo project and plan to enjoy them wholeheartedly.

Tonight we went to see a VIP in action.  Sirrocco is a Very Important Parrot.  He is one of only 125 Kakapo left in the world and has been named an ambassador for conservation because he prefers people to other Kakapo…  Good for highlighting the plight of an endangered species, but not so great for breeding more Kakapo….  Isn't he just beautiful?  And look at those feet!
I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend.  Tomorrow we're going out to a friend's house for the day, and on Sunday we're going to hang with the grandparents since it's father's day.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Books I've Loved: Ashes

Here's another one of those books I just couldn't put down, but really isn't my kind of book.  Well, maybe it is…  Ashes is the first book in a trilogy and is set in a post-apocalyptic world.  But unlike most post-a apocalyptic stories, the apocalypse happens at the beginning of the book.  So there are no rules or new orders to the world Alex finds herself in.

Alex has headed into the woods to say goodbye to her dead parents and to contemplate her own death.  She has a brain tumor and knows she hasn't got long to live.  Then something happens and kills almost everyone in the world, fries technology and leaves the few survivors to figure out how to live in this new place.

The characters are all really well developed and well drawn.  The writing is tense and you just have to read on, page after page.  I sped through this book and then couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequels.  Unfortunately I had to wait a while.  But I have now read the whole series and can say Ashes is definitely the best of the 3 books, but you will want to read the whole lot to find out what happens to Alex and her little crew.

If you don't believe me, here's the blurb:

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.