Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Books I've Loved: American Panda

I've been excited to read this book ever since I read excerpts from it while judging for Write Club. And it didn't disappoint! This was such a fun read, I devoured the whole thing on Sunday.

Clearly written from experience, American Panda tells the story of Mei, an over-acheiving Taiwanese-American struggling to find herself while juggling traditional values and parental expectations.  

Being only seventeen and at an Ivy League college would be a big enough struggle, without throwing in the fact Mei's parents are dead set on her becoming a doctor.  So Mei is enrolled in all the right classes to set her on that track, despite the fact biology bores her to tears and she is way to conscious of germs lurking everywhere.

Her true love is dance, but her parents don't see that as a suitable career - certainly not one that will impress other Taiwanese parents, especially those with eligible sons.  Sons Mei isn't interested in meeting because she's already met Darren, the handsome Californian with Japanese roots.

As she struggles to balance her own needs with her parents' demands, Mei finds herself increasingly torn and reaches out to her estranged brother who has been cut off by the family for dating an unsuitable woman.  She is surprised to find him happy and unrepentant and starts to wonder if trying to fit herslf into a box that is clearly the wrong size and shape is worth the lies and heartbreak.

While I'm sure this book doesn't represent the experiences of all Asian Americans, it feels wholly honest to the author's experiences.  I can imagine that re-living these experiences and emotions must have been incredibly difficult, but Chao has managed to write a book that is both touching and hilariously funny.  The characters are authentic and never ridiculed, even when Mei is at her most exasperated at the cultural gap between herself and her family.

Highly recommended!

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

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Weekly Goals 26-2-18

After a week off from writing last week, I'm ready to get back to it this week.  My publisher has a call out for an anthology, so rather than diving into a new novel project, I thought I'd give a shorter piece a go.  I have an idea that I think might work with the theme, so this week will be all about exploring that and seeing how it goes.

There is always the possibility that the shorter piece may turn into a novel, but if I try to ignore the characters leading me away from the core plot, I hope to manage a story of around 20K.  I figure the first draft should take a couple of weeks.  Long enough to let SHOOK's new draft really settle.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Celebrate the Small Things 23-2-18

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?

The Festival of the Arts started last night, so for three weeks there is a veritable feast of theatre, music, dance and more to be had in Wellington.  I went to the opening night of a new ballet based on Jane Campion's movie, The Piano, last night and it was quite wonderful.  Very intense, and unusual.

Unfortunately the tickets are pretty expensive, so I won't be going to nearly everything I'd like to.  But I'll celebrate every show I do make it to.

On Sunday I'm taking my younger son up the coast to see my friend and the weather looks like it's going to be good.  Hopefully we will be able to go for a swim at the beach.  The sea is always way warmer up at her place than it is down here.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Books I've Read: Here, There, Everywhere

This was an easy, quick read, but felt like it was meant for an audience younger than YA in many ways. I didn't dislike it at all, but there was something about it that felt off to me and I couldn't give myself over to the story as completely as I really wanted to.

The main character is Zeus (short for Jesus), the only Mexiwegian in the new small town he's moved to.  It's summer and he's tasked with looking after his little brother and doing food delivery for his mother who has just opened at cafe in the town.  Zeus is pretty sure everything about the town sucks until he delivers a salad to the nursing home and meets Rose.

Pretty soon he and Rose are dating and Zeus is making other friends around town, mainly due to his deliveries and his mother's amazing brownies.  Everything seems perfect until Zeus discovers that Rose isn't any happier in the small town than he was when he arrived.  She's counting the hours until she finds out if she gets the scholarship that will allow her to go to New York to study music at the end of the summer.

With the romance feeling like it unfolds way too quickly, to a rather superfluous subplot involving theft at the rest home, this is a book that just doesn't quite gel the way it should.  Some of the best characters are the supporting ones - rest home residents, the other kids in the band Zeus joins - which serves only to make Rose and Zeus appear more bland.  Rose especially.  She's one of those female characters who just seems to good to be true.

There are things I definitely enjoyed about this book, but it certainly wouldn't be one I'd be telling everyone I meet they have to read.  But certainly not a bad way to fill in a Sunday afternoon,

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

Zeus would rather be anywhere than here—Buffalo Falls—the tiny town his family moved to at the end of the school year. Having left all his friends back in Chicago and with nothing to look forward to except helping out at his mother’s cafĂ© and biking around town with his weird little brother, Zeus is pretty sure this is destined to be the worst summer of his life.

But then he meets Rose—funny, beautiful, smart, and an incredible musician.

Zeus can hardly believe that someone like her exists, let alone seems interested in being with him. However, while Zeus is counting down the minutes until he can see her next, Rose is counting down the days until she finds out whether she will be able to leave their small town to pursue her dreams. As the afternoons spent going on local adventures pass into nights discussing their deepest hopes, Zeus knows that he doesn’t have long to convince Rose that what they have is more than a summer fling…if only he’s brave enough to seize the chance.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Weekly Goals 19-2-18

I finished the revision of SHOOK yesterday, so now I have the whole book in Sam's POV.  I kind of figured out how to do it as I went along, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to make some tweaks and changes in the early part of the book (and probably the later parts too).

So this week I'm going to take a break from it so I can come back with some fresher eyes later.  I have another story sitting on my hard drive I want to take another look at, so I will drag that out and give it a read to see if it might be salvageable...

What are your goals this week?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Spotlight on The Crossed Fire by Kim Baccellia

I'm excited to be able to share this new book by Kim Baccellia with you today. But first, take a look at the first book in the series to remind you (or introduce you if you haven't read it before) to the characters and world of the Crossed Series.

Crossed Out (Book 1 Crossed Series) by Kim Baccellia Published May 17th, 2010 Genre: YA/Paranormal/Fantasy

Following the light can’t be that hard, right? So why don’t the dead just do it and leave Stephanie Stewart alone? However nothing is ever as simple as it should be, as Stephanie learns when her hidden ‘gift’ becomes more than a nuisance, quickly turning into a liability. If she can’t learn to trust someone with her secret, the world as she knows it will go to hell. Literally. But if she doesn’t choose wisely, she might just end up learning firsthand how hard it is to follow that light. Because she’s next on the list to be crossed out.      


Crossed Fire (Book 2 Crossed Series)by Kim Baccellia
Published December 18th, 2017
Genre: YA/Paranormal/Fantasy

Stephanie Stewart is a typical sixteen-year-old girl—she loves hanging out with her friends, going to concerts, and sipping mocha lattes. Yup. Just your average teenager . . . Except for one difference—she can see and talk to the dead. In fact, Stephanie helps dead girls who who’ve been murdered or killed, cross over. Just as Stephanie is getting used to her unique “gift”, her mom stumbles into some dangerous witchcraft that backfires and triggers similar abilities in Stephanie’s best friend Cura, and nemesis Hillary. Stephanie already has enough trouble trying to maintain a “normal” life between school and her cute boyfriend Dylan, who happens to have a supernatural talent all his own. But now she has to help her friend Cura and her “frenemy” Hillary cope with their new-found powers as well as cross over two murdered cheerleaders and battle an evil demon who wants to use Stephanie’s supernatural strengths as a free pass to The Other Side. And she needs to do it all while still getting her term papers in on time. She’s definitely going to need an extra-large mocha latte for this.


About the Author:

Kim Baccellia has always been a sucker for the paranormal. She blames it on her families’ love for such things as having picnics at cemeteries, visiting psychics, and reading her mother’s copies of the daily horoscope. In middle school, Kim wrote a horoscope column for the school newspaper. It was a huge hit!

A member of RWA, Kim is currently putting the finishing touches on a YA multicultural thriller. She lives in Southern California with her husband and son. Her website: http://www.kim-baccellia.com
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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Celebrate the Small Things 16-2-18

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?

I've made great progress with my revision, and now have only six chapters left to go.  I hope to get through these over the weekend so I can let the MS rest for a week or so before going back in to make sure the changes I made actually make sense.

Looking forward to the weekend, although it looks like a busy one.  I'm doing a run on Sunday morning (which I haven't trained for, so is likely to be a fast walk instead).  I don't really care where I place, just as long as I do better than last year!

What are you celebrating this week?