Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Books I've read: This Boy

I really wish I had liked this book more.  It started off so well and I was really enjoying Paul's peculiar sense of humor and his burgeoning friendship with Roby.  He seemed like someone I'd have fun hanging out with for a while.

But then, like so many guys seem to do, he turned into a complete ass and I lost any compassion or empathy I might have had for him.  He treats his friend like shit because he 'falls in love' with a girl, but he doesn't really seem to love her at all.  It's all about her looks and not about who she really is.

And then he becomes a drug addict and she dumps his ass.  Which he deserves because he's pathetic and does nothing to help himself.  And then his mother has to try and pull him out of it.

The depiction of his slide into drug addiction wasn't convincing although I did believe the way he cheated on his detoxing.  His mother is really innocent if she thinks she can trust an addict do actually be doing what he says he's doing where is comes to what he's taking.  Everyone knows junkies lie.  Or I thought they did...


I thought the voice was great in this book.  Unfortunately it wasn't a voice I wanted or needed to hear.  I'm not sure how the author managed to write this with such an obnoxious character living in her head all that time.  

So I wouldn't recommend this one.  And if I did, it would be because it captures the voice of an unlikable character perfectly.

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

Lauren Myracle brings her signature frank, funny, and insightful writing to this novel of a teenage boy’s coming-of-age.

Paul Walden is not an alpha lobster, the hypermasculine crustacean king who intimidates the other male lobsters, beds all the lady lobsters, and “wins” at life. At least not according to the ego-bursting feedback he’s given in his freshman seminar. But Paul finds a funny, faithful friend in Roby Smalls, and maybe — oh god, please — he’s beginning to catch the interest of smart, beautiful Natalia Gutierrez. Cruising through high school as a sauced-out, rap-loving beta lobster suits Paul fine, and if life ever gets him down? Smoke a little weed, crunch a few pills . . . it’s all good.

But in the treacherous currents of teenage culture, it’s easy to get pulled under. With perfect frankness, Lauren Myracle lays bare the life of one boy as he navigates friendship, love, loss, and addiction. It’s life at its most ordinary and most unforgettable.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Weekly Goals 28-09-20

 I'm ashamed to admit I got no writing done over the weekend.  All the time I had was taken up with family stuff and chores, which is annoying to say the least!

Especially since I spent time on Saturday going to visit my father-in-law in the hospital, only to discover when I got there that he'd been sent home.  So that was time I could have spent writing which instead I spent on buses and walking.

But on the plus side, at least he's back in his own house which has to be more pleasant for him. Although as he lives alone, I do worry about him.  We went to visit yesterday and he seemed very tired and a little frail which is not something I've ever thought about him before.

Which leads me to this week's goals...  To actually finish the work on Standing Too Close.  And I would also like to scribble down some notes about the plot of my Juliet and Juliet romance in case I decide to write that during NaNo.  It feels more and more likely that this is the story I'm going to tackle and in many ways, I feel like it makes more sense because this is a book with girl protagonists and A Stranger to Kindness is another boy book like Standing Too Close. I can't help thinking it might be good to write some girls again for a while.  It feels like a while since I did that.

So that's me this week.  What are your goals?

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 25-9-20


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 felt like a really long week again, so I'm looking forward to a couple of days off.  Even if I have a lot to do in those days off.

My father-in-law has had his operation and seems to be doing remarkable well.  They think he might go home today, and if not, tomorrow.

I haven't done as much work on Standing Too Close as I had hoped to do, but I have done some.  I'm hoping to get a few hours this weekend to really dive in and make some changes.  I'm not sure if I will though, with everything else I have to do over the weekend.

I am vacillating over which book to try and write during NaNo.  I have a very vague idea of the plot for A Stranger to Kindness, but I know the characters really well now, whereas I have a much better idea of the plot for my lesbian Romeo and Juliet story, but know the characters less.  I'm not sure which one will be the best to work on, or if I should try something truly crazy and work on both at the same time, switching between them as I get stuck at various points.

But I guess I have a month or so to decide...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Books I've Read: Rabbit and Robot


I've been a huge fan of Andrew Smith's books since I stumbled across Grasshopper Jungle several years ago and thought it was one of the most bizarre, inventive and plan fun books I'd read in years.  Rabbit and Robot is very much in the same vein and it's going to be difficult to talk about without giving away too much.  But I will do my best...

Set in a future where war is a daily occurrance and most of the world is on fire, Cager and his friend Billy are among the few people in the world who are not either robots (cogs) or those who programme robots (coders).  This is purely because their fathers are the uber-elite, super rich who have built the system.  To keep the human population under control, a drug called Woz is administered freely.

Cager is not supposed to use Woz, but out of boredom he started taking it and is now an addict.  To try and wean him off the drug, Billy and Cager's carer Rowan hijack a luxury space cruiser for him to detox in.

Unfortunately, as they are prepping to leave the Earth's atmosphere, Earth implodes under the weight of too many wars, leaving the three men as potentially the only human survivors. The spacecraft is well suited to sustaining human life long-term.  A full staff of cogs is available to serve and food and drink can be printed to order.

But something has been let loose on the spaceship.  Something that makes the cogs behave in an increasingly bizarre manner.  And who are the human girls on board that Cager alone can smell?  Will they be able to help Cager and Billy escape a lifetime trapped in space?

There is so much to like about this book.  From the fully functioning cogs, each of whom has one defining characteristic - cheerful, depressed, know-it-all, outraged, horny - to the visit to the ship by another species of alien who claim to be fully responsible for the human race.  And then there's the French-speaking amorous giraffe...

Cager is kind of an annoying protagonist.  He's spoiled and weak and unable to do anything much for himself.  But it's clear this is not really his fault.  His parents have brought him up this way, allowing Rowan to be a surrogate parent/valet/man-servant all in one.  They've even paid kids to be friends with Cager and Billy.

To give away more would be too much, so I won't go into much more detail. Just know that everything that happens in this book is surreal, strange and immensely fun.  I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but if you like quirky, extremely imaginative stories, this one is for you.

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

Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Weekly Goals 21-9-20

 Once again my goal this week is to finish my new draft of Standing Too Close.  I'm not any closer to reaching that goal than I was on Friday because my weekend kind of got thrown out of kilter when my father-in-law (who is 92 today) was put into the hospital.

So now I am going to have to try and get the work done in the mornings, evenings (if I have the energy) and possibly next weekend, although I have a feeling my time will be taken up with Peter quite a bit then too.  What is it they say about best laid plans?  

On the plus side, this book has been hanging around for so long now, I suppose a few more weeks isn't going to kill it.  My deadlines are my own, not anyone else's, so if it takes me until the end of October to finish, I'm the only one who will be disappointed.

Anyway, that's my week.  What are your goals for the week?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 18-9-20

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's felt like a long week even though I had a half-day off on Tuesday because I felt sick, and then worked from home on Wednesday.  Still managed to get a lot of work done though...

Looking forward to the weekend and getting the house cleaned.  I was away at the mountains last weekend, and of course nobody thought to do anything useful around the house like laundry or cleaning anything.  My younger son did vacuum, he says, but the cats shed so much fur, it's always a little hard to tell.

My elder son turned 16 this week, which is both wonderful and terrifying.  And his band won their heat in the battle of the bands which means they move into the next round.

I've been working on Standing Too Close and hope to have a new draft finished by the end of the weekend (or next week at the latest).  I'm determined to get this finished by the end of the month and will query widely through October.  Eeeek!

What are you celebrating this week?

Welcoming Author Patricia Lynne

My friend Patricia Lynne has just re-released all her YA novels with new covers and I'm excited to be able to share them with you today.  Aren't they pretty?  And they're great reads too.  So if you're into paranormal stories full of mythical creatures, these books might just tickle your fancy...

Being Human

Tommy forgot his human life when he became a vampire...but it didn’t forget him.

Like all vampires, Tommy must do one thing: survive. With no memory of his life before death, his only connection to humanity is his twin brother. When Tommy rescues a young girl, he learns not all monsters are undead. After returning her to her family, Tommy struggles to understand why he felt so protective of her when she has no connection to him.

As the years pass, and with his twin’s help, Tommy moves on with his ‘life’ but never forgets the young girl or the monster who hurt her. When she re-enters his life as a teenager, Tommy struggles with his vampire need to survive and his desire to protect her. He will be forced to decide which part of him is stronger: The vampire? Or the human? The answer may destroy him. 


Cyclop can see other people’s futures, but his own is clouded by a past he can’t escape and a man he calls Master.

It’s not Cyclop’s albino skin and mismatched eyes that make him stand out, but his ability to see the future and a dark past he escaped. Only those close to him know his secrets, and with their help, he has carved out a normal life. But his past refuses to let him go, and when the man he calls Master finds him, he is forced to return to his old life.

Imprisoned, Cyclop clings to the hope of freedom. To do so, he must break Master’s control over him. Will he find the strength to become the master of his own life? Or is his past destined to be his future?

Leaves of Fall

Armory was raised to hate nature, but not all trees wanted a war.

Armory was born in a world torn apart by the war between man and nature. The threat of another attack looms over Armory and the survivors hidden in the remains of New York City. When Armory is kidnapped, a tree nymph is her unlikely savior. 

Birch claims he can return Armory safely home. Can she trust a tree? If she wants to see her home again, she has no choice. As they travel across the wasteland of America, Armory meets both humans and trees who want the fighting to stop.

But the hatred between man and nature may be too deep of a wound to heal. In a world destroyed by hate, can Armory and Birch’s friendship change minds and forge peace? Birch has a plan to make it happen. He’s just not sure he’ll survive.

About the Author:
Patricia never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was more of an art and band geek. Some stories are meant to be told, and now she can't stop writing. Her young adult stories often have a paranormal, fantasy or sci-fi twist.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow. She also writes New Adult Urban Fantasy and Sci-Fi Romance under the name Patricia Josephine.


Links to Books:

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Books I've Read: Surrender Your Sons

This is one of those books I really wish I enjoyed more.  The premise is fantastic - part Lord of the Flies and part The Miseducation of Cameron Post - but it didn't quite work for me.

Connor lives in a small rural town with his religious zealot mother.  He's gay and has a boyfriend for the first time.  His boyfriend comes from a very supportive family who embraced his coming out without reservation.  Connor is pretty sure his own mother won't be so accepting, but Ario encourages him to stop sneaking around and to tell his mother.

As Connor predicted, it doesn't go well and Connor finds himself on lockdown, allowed out of the house only to help the Reverend deliver meals on wheels.  And there's something weird about the Reverend, and not just the thrall he seems to have the entire town under, especially Conner's mother.  It seems to have something to do with one of the meals on wheels customers, a severely handicapped guy called Ricky.

Then Ricky dies and Connor is dragged from his home by burly guys who claim to be taking him to a summer camp.  The only clue is a note Ricky left in the pages of an old theatre program.

The summer camp turns out to be a conversion camp on a remote island in Costa Rica.  And it's run by none other than the Reverend.  Connor needs to figure out why Ricky wrote the name of this camp on the program he left and what his link is to both the camp and the Reverend before it's too late.

There was lots to like about this story about kids taking justice into their own hands in order to escape a horrendous experience.  There were moments of high adventure and excitement and moments of quite tender romance.  But overall, I felt like there was a little too much going on.  It was difficult to understand why Connor was so invested in Ricky's past when he didn't seem to know him very well, and cared about him less.

The writing itself was often overblown which drew me out of the story because the language didn't feel like Connor's language, the descriptions unlike something a teenage boy would observe.

The other campers were not well-drawn and were defined almost exclusively through the way they looked.  Female campers were given particularly little definition apart from feisty Molly, the girl Connor arrives on the island with.

If you're a fan of action and adventure and kids taking the law into their own hands, this might be a book for you.

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read it in advance.

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

Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.

His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”

But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Weekly Goals 14-9-20

This week is all about revising Standing Too Close.  I've had several people give me feedback, so now it's time to use all that feedback to make the book better.

Fingers crossed I can do it.

And that's about it for this week.   It feels like a small goal, but I think it's going to be a bit of work, so I'll leave it at that.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 11-9-20

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?

Long weekend away!

Yes, I am taking Friday off work and going away with a friend for the weekend.  We're going up to the snow, not to ski or snowboard, but to have a bit of time out there in nature.  Fingers crossed the weather won't be too bad.   It's pretty darn hideous here right now.

I got the last bits of feedback on Standing Too Close and have some ideas how I can fix a few things, make the book more satisfying toward the end.  Unfortunately, I'm still a little stuck as to what I need to add in the middle, but I'll figure it out.  That's going to be my project for the next couple of weeks so I can keep on track to query through October while I gear my brain up to do NaNo.

But this weekend, I won't be writing.  I'm leaving my laptop at home so I can enjoy my holiday.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Books I've Loved: How to Make Friends with the Dark

It's been a long time since I had a book hangover, but this book has been haunting me since I finished it on Sunday.

It's a book about grief and how to cope with it.  Or maybe not how to cope with it since the main character, Tiger, really doesn't cope well.  Maybe it's more about living with grief or the many different ways grief affects us.

Anyway, I found it very powerful and as I said, have been thinking about it for days.

Tiger and her mother had a very close relationship.  Maybe too close.  I felt like Tiger's mother clung too tightly to Tiger, was too protective of her.  And of course, as a teenager, Tiger wanted to be free.

But how do you deal with it when your first taste of rebellion ends with your mother dropping dead suddenly and unexpectedly, before you have a chance to apologise for the words you tossed out in the middle of fight?

This is what Tiger has to reconcile.  Alongside the fact she and her mother have always been alone together, no other family around for support.

As she struggles to negotiate a world without her mother, and the guilt over the last words she spoke to her, Tiger also has to deal with foster care and a string of new homes with new rules and new people in them.  

The only constant is her best friend, Cake.  But when she overhears a conversation between Cake's parents, Tiger knows she needs to stop clinging to Cake like the only piece of flotsam in a storm-tossed sea.

This is definitely not a cheerful book.  Tiger's problems only get worse once she discovers who her father is and that she has an older half-sister who grudgingly agrees to be her caregiver.  The kids in her school-sanctioned Grief Group help a bit - they understand at least - but they don't stop Tiger from making some very bad choices.

Tiger is kind of an annoying character, but somehow it didn't bother me in this book where it probably would have in another. She's so innocent, but I think that's partly because of how much her mother sheltered her from life's cruelty.  She's very passive in many ways, but the overwhelming nature of everything being thrown her way makes this lack of agency feel realistic, rather than pathetic.  She really does have no control over the situations she finds herself in.

I also liked that her friendship with Thaddeus, the foster brother she lives with briefly, remains a friendship.  So often relationships like this in YA end up becoming romantic, and I liked that this time it stayed platonic, even as the two of them supported each other.

This is not necessarily an easy read.  If you've lost someone close to you it will probably feel very raw.  I know it brought up a lot of feelings in me I thought I had long-buried.  And it may not be accurate to the way everyone experiences grief - it's a personal thing that everyone feels and deals with differently.

But I feel like this was an accurate and heartfelt representation of this character's grief and how she responded to not just the loss of her mother, but the loss of life as she knew it before.  At one point Tiger comments that she wishes there was a manifesto to tell her how to navigate through the grief she's feeling.  This is not that manifesto; it's just one girl's experience.

Don't just listen to me, though.  Here's the blurb:

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Weekly Goals 7-9-20

I have just got the last round of notes from readers on Standing Too Close, so this week is all about trying to implement all the feedback I have received, and hopefully fix all the flaws in the story.  it may be challenging because different readers have had issues with different things, so I need to really think hard about what is true to the characters and what feels right to me.

I may not get through all of it this week because I'm going away for a long weekend and am not going to take my laptop.  But we shall see how far I can get in my morning sessions.

I'm very keen to get this story right and ready to send out by the end of the month so I can spend October querying while I prepare for NaNo and writing A Stranger to Kindness.  Weirdly, this is a book that came with a title... It's not something that happens to me often.  Most of my stories live in my hard drive for years under the name of the main character (Chris or Sacha) or as hashtags like #juvvielesbian or #suicidequake.  I always take it as a good thing when a title comes first or the title inspires the story that will sit under it.  Even if the title often ends up changing before the book is published. 

Fun fact - An Unstill Life was called The Boyfriend Plague until just before it was published.

And that's about all for goals this week.  Just trying to get through until Friday when I get to go on my trip to the snow!

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 4-9-20

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, it probably sounds repetitive.  I celebrate the weekend every week.  But I believe it needs to be celebrated every week.

Unbelievable as it sounds, I had another really compelling book idea this week.  Another one I want to write.  Another one I can't start because I still haven't completely finished Standing Too Close.  

This one is a lesbian story.  With religion and other tricky complications.  Kind of a Romeo and Juliet story, although I guess given they're queer, it's Juliet and Juliet.  I can't help thinking it's been done before, but when you think about it, almost every story has been done before.  It's all in the telling.

Anyway...  I'm tucking my delicious little minxes and their naughty shennanigans away for now because I have already announced my NaNo project for this year as being A Stranger to Kindness and that story is way more formed in my head than these newly arrived forbidden lovers.

If only I had the time to read everything I want to read and write everything I want to write...  

But at least I'm not clawing around in search of ideas to work on.  Earlier this year I felt like I had nothing more I wanted to write, like there were no more characters or stories knocking around in my head.  So I'm grateful to discover this is not the case.  I am still a creative being and stories do still flow through me.  

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Insecure Writers' Support Group - September

It's the beginning of September so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Group!

This month's question really has me scratching my head.  

If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

I've been pondering this ever since I first read it.  Do I choose one of my favorite authors, assuming that they'd be interested in reading my stuff as much as I enjoy reading theirs?  Do I pick someone who is good at the things I feel like I'm not so great at in my own writing?  Do I choose someone whose stories are like mine, or someone whose writing style floors me each time I read it?

Several authors passed through my head.  S E Hinton because it was reading her books that inspired me to write my own.  Donna Tartt because her books are both perfectly plotted and gorgeous to read.  Janet Fitch because her descriptions always give me chills and she manages to always tell compelling stories as well as writing beautifully.  Cormac McCarthy because his writing is so distinctive it almost becomes another character.

And the list goes on.  Markus Zusack because he wrote the book I've enjoyed most in the last couple of years. Stephen King for always writing something page-turning.  Mary Lawson for writing quiet books about ordinary people in a way that makes ordinary lives extraordinary.  Russell Banks for writing some of the books I've enjoyed the most over the years.  Sam Shepard for writing the kind of bold, muscular prose I wish I was capable of writing.

The list goes on and on. There are so many writers I've read and admired.  So many writers I'd love to have read my work and give me advice on how to improve it.  Too many to pick just one.  And I've been lucky as a writer too, in that I've had some pretty damn fantastic readers to work with.

In fact, to be honest, the beta reader I'd like to work with the most is my old partner in crime, Lexa Cain.  She was always my biggest champion and my harshest critic and has probably had the biggest influence on my writing of anyone.  We never met in person, and I don't know what has become of her, but she was suffering  health issues when I last heard from her, so I suspect the worst.

I miss her and I miss reading her stories.  I miss her pushing me to dive deeper into my stories and characters, her plotting advice.

 I miss her.