Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Books I've Read; Where We Go From Here


I picked this one up without picking up that it was set in Brazil which just made it all the more fascinating to read.  It follows a group of young gay men as they work through their various experiences of living with or around HIV.

Victor and Ian meet at a testing clinic - Ian tests positive while Victor, thankfully, doesn't.  Yet despite the good news, Victor finds himself furious at the guy he's been dating for not telling him his HIV status before they had sex.  Yet he still suggests to Ian, a guy he has only just met, that he might want to speak to Henrique as someone who has lived with HIV for some time.

As they navigate the complexities of their relationships, their HIV status and their attitudes, these three men find their lives becoming increasingly entangled with all the messiness that comes along with new friendships and new love.

I enjoyed this one because while the story was not that new to me, the setting gave it a different flavour and I was interested in seeing the way a different culture responds to something familiar.  Each of these guys has a different experience of HIV and their outlooks are different as well.  Victor's attitude frustrated me at times even while I felt it was understandable on some levels.

So I'd recommend this one if you're interested in seeing something familiar in a somewhat new light.

But don't just listen to me.

Here's the blurb:

An absorbing debut novel about three gay young adults in Brazil whose lives become intertwined in the face of HIV, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Bill Konigsberg

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can't help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn't disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That's when Victor meets Ian, a guy who's also getting tested for HIV. But Ian's test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we've come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Weekly Goals 29-8-22

 I'm hoping this week which includes the first day of spring might mark an end to the endless rain we've been having.  I'm so sick of being wet and cold!  I thought buying an expensive rain coat would mean I'd never get an opportunity to wear it, but the opposite has actually been true:  I've already got my money's worth out of that thing.

This week I'm hoping to start feeling more settled in my new job and more confident in what I need to do.  I also think it's the first week in ages when I haven't had a ton of extra things to do on top of my job so I'm hoping I might be able to find a little time to write.  Even just a short story would be good.  Flash fiction, even....

And that's about it for goals.  Not big, I know, but sometimes that's all you can do. 

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 26-8-22


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

It's been a long week and I'm still learning the ropes at my new job which is a little exhausting. So looking forward to spending a couple of days away to process all the information.

My bestie and her band are here this weekend, so looking forward to seeing them and catching up.  It has been far too long!

Also looking forward to a classic film on Sunday night at the Roxy: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.  If you haven't seen it, it's a hoot!  Arch rivals Joan Crawford and Bette Davis basically beat the snot out of each other.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Books I've Read: Game Changer

I’m not sure when the idea of the multi-verse captured the world’s imagination, but this year it seems to be everywhere – from the latest Dr Strange film to the utterly bonkers Everything Everywhere All at Once, and now this book, the multi-verse is everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed several of Neil Shusterman’s other books, so I didn’t even read the blurb on this when I saw it at the library, just picked it up and carried it home.  And I’m glad I did.  I’m not much of a multi-verse person, but I enjoyed the various realities Ash found himself traveling through, and more particularly, the ways Ash found himself changed in each new world.  I also liked the way the worlds were linked rather than being completely random, so the changes in one reality were often carried through to the next meaning that Ash’s challenge was to get things back as close to the way they were as possible.

The idea that you can train yourself to pick the right reality also intrigued me.  Ash’s guides through the worlds all seemed to have competing priorities, something that only became apparent once their numbers multiplied along with the worlds.  When you can’t even trust the people who are suppose to guiding you through the universe, what can you do?  Especially as the worlds are becoming increasingly sinister and it looks less and less likely that Ash will be able to affect the changes he wants to affect.

As he slips between versions of the universe, who Ash is begins to change although he maintains his core self and the memories of each reality as he moves from one to the next.  Which I wasn’t 100% sure about – how can the Ash brought up in one world remember his life in a different one as well as holding the memories of this reality.  I think it’s better not to dwell too much on those details or, like time travel, you’ll come up against far too many paradoxes to be able to believe the premise.  Better to just go along with it and enjoy the story without too much analysis.

So I’d recommend this one.  It’s a fun ride with some genuinely suspenseful – and surprising – moments.

But don’t just listen to me!  Here’s the blurb:

All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.

Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension—and keeps on bouncing through worlds that are almost-but-not-really his own.

The changes start small, but they quickly spiral out of control as Ash slides into universes where he has everything he’s ever wanted, universes where society is stuck in the past…universes where he finds himself looking at life through entirely different eyes.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Weekly goals 22-8-22

 I'm still working at settling in at my new job and figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing, so this week is going to be all about that again.  It's quite tiring - especially getting to know everyone.  I think I'd forgotten that part because I'd been in the same team with largely the same people for so long at my old job.  It's challenging to figure out how different people like to work and communicate.

And since I know that is going take up most of my time and energy, I'm not setting myself any other goals this week.  Once I have got my head around this new work situation, then I'll be able to start thinking about how I can fit everything else I want to do in around it.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, August 19, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 19-8-22


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I made it through my first week in my new job!  I think I'm going to like it.  Everyone seems really nice and after working in film for over 30 years, it's kind of fun to be working with something else.  At the moment I'm working primarily on the Jazz Festival which is happening in October.  Tickets went on sale this week for the first five acts, which is an exciting place to start from.

The weather has been abysmal all week and it looks like the weekend is going to be just as bad.  Which means I may not get to the gym because my partner is away with the car and biking to the gym in pouring rain just doesn't seem like a great idea.

I don't know what happened to my book review post on Wednesday.  I wrote it and published it, but it seems to have vanished into the ether....  Weird!  Oh well.  Next week.

What are you celebrating this week?

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Weekly Goals 15-8-22

 I start my new job today, so this week's goals have to be about getting settled in there and figuring out how my life will fit around the new role.  And adjusting to life post-film festival which is always a wrench.  

I had a fantastic final weekend of the fest.  I saw a wonderful Australian crime film that had me completely baffled as to what was going on for the first hour or so.  I had just started wondering if I was exceptionally stupid when it all clicked into place and became terrifically exciting until the end.  Then I saw my personal highlight of this year's festival, one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction documentaries about a guy in Scotland who went back to his old school as a 32-year-old to give it another shot.  Posing as 16, he had an elaborate story about his past to explain why he didn't look like the other 16-year-olds and it must have worked because even the teachers who had been at the school when he was there 15 years earlier didn't recognize him.  Wonderful!  

I saw another doco, this one about Eadeweard Muybridge, the photographer who basically pioneered moving image photography.  I knew about that part of his career, but there was an awful lot of other stuff I wasn't aware of and he was a truly fascinating man.  Another festival highlight was a new film from Ana Lily Anampour about a young woman with a strange psychic ability who escapes a mental hospital and heads into New Orleans.  Excellent.  And the final day I saw the delightful Marcel the Shell with Shoes On which is sweet and funny and just wonderful.  And I finished the festival with a bonkers French film from Quentin Dupieux about a team of avengers sent on a retreat by their boss after their last mission didn't conclude as tidily as he wanted.  A lot of scary stories are told around campfires, each weirder and creepier than the last.  Including one told by barracuda as it is being cooked...told you it was weird.

And that's it from me.  What are your goals this week?

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 12-8-22


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I finished my job on Wednesday and am now a lady of leisure until Monday.  I know, it isn't a long break - probably not long enough, to be honest, but I couldn't make it work to get more time off.  I'm not entirely sure I'm celebrating leaving because I loved that job and had a fantastic team of people that I worked with.  It just felt like it was time to move on, so move I have.  I start my new role on Monday, which is exciting, although a little nerve wracking because they're welcoming me, and some other new people, with a powhiri. I had better brush up on my pepiha so I can introduce myself properly in te reo.

The great thing about finishing this week is that the film festival is still on so I can go to films during the day.  I have seen some interesting things since we last talked...  I saw a doco about Leonard Cohen and his song Hallelujah which was really interesting but got the damn song stuck in my head for about three days.  I saw a very surreal film about a group of sonic caterers (don't ask) at a residency and the journalist documenting their progress who suffered from terribly intestinal distress.  And I saw a very creepy Austrian horror film last night about a young girl going to stay with her aunt for the holidays in the hope she'd help her to lose weight.  Things most definitely did not go as she'd hoped they might...

I have six more to see before the end of the festival, so I'll tell you all about them on Monday.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Books I've read Cafe Con Lychee


I enjoyed this author's previous book, so I thought I'd give this one a go too.

Set in a Vermont town, it is the love story between two boys who start the book as bitter rivals due to their parents' having competing businesses.  When a new fusion cafe opens in town and business at both older stores drops, they band together to try and save their family businesses.  And along the way, they fall in love.  But the path of true love never runs smoothly, does it?

This is a book that's filled with diverse characters.  The two main characters, Theo and Gabi, are Chinese/Japanese and Puerto Rican respectively.  And of course, gay.  Theo is out and his parents seem to accept him even if his extended family don't, but Gabi isn't and doesn't think he ever will be because his parents are so actively homophobic.

Theo thinks he's a failure and will never live up to his older brother's achievements.  Gabi wants to dance but can't tell his parents because they consider dancing effeminate and not something a boy should want to do.  So he plays soccer, despite being terrible at it, to the point he's always running into Theo, the star of the team, on the field.  And when one of these collisions leads to Theo spraining a wrist, Gabi gets roped into helping him with his covert operation to try and save his parents' shop.

There's nothing particularly new or different about this book.  It's a romance and follows the typical path of a romance novel with all the misunderstandings, arguments and everything that come along with it.  It's a quick and easy read and there's nothing offensive or terrible about it.  I just felt a little like it was trying too hard to be relevant with its diverse cast of characters whose backgrounds and cultural differences never really played a part in the story.  I felt like the character were that way more to tick diversity boxes than for any real story reason.  Which is something I'm noticing more and more as publishing tries to look less white...

There is nothing at all wrong with this book.  It's fun and sweet and easy to read. I enjoyed it, but the self-consciously diverse characters did stick out to me.

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

Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Weekly goals 8-8-22

 It's going to be a crazy week this week.  I finish my job on Wednesday which is a very strange feeling.  I've been there almost eight years which is about the longest I've ever been in a single job.  So I'm sad to be leaving all my wonderful colleagues, but looking forward to doing something else and meeting new people too.

Film festival is going well.  I saw a bizarre French film on Friday about a couple buying a new house with a rather unusual feature.  It was good, but I feel like it needed to be a little longer (I know, I never say that) to fully explore the various themes the surreal storyline alluded to.

The rest of the weekend was all New Zealand films.  I saw a documentary about an artist I knew very little about and another documentary about a man who understands cows in a very deep way.  Both were good and took very unexpected turns.  I also saw a beautiful film about a small-town boxer and his relationship with the openly gay town outcast.  And finally, I saw an anthology film made in partnership with Australia to explore the impact of colonization on the Pacific region.  Like most anthology films, some parts worked better than others and the way the films intertwined with one another sometimes world and sometimes didn't.  

All in all, I good weekend of viewing.  More to come.

So this week's goals are to wrap things up at work and to enjoy the last week of Festival. What are your goals?

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 5-8-22

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend and the film festival has started!  I went to my first film last night, Muru, a local feature in te reo Māori about a police raid on an isolated community.  I enjoyed it very much, even if it was more of an action movie than I had expected after having been involved with it since an early script.

More movies to come this weekend, all local too except tonight's.

I somehow managed to trip over a loose stone or crack in my driveway and fell flat on my face.  So this morning was spent in the ER getting my wrist X-rayed.  Good news; it's not broken, but they did put it into a splint which makes typing difficult.  Luckily it's only supposed to stay in the splint for 3 days.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

IWSG August

 The awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery! 

August 3 question - When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

Oooh!  This is an interesting question.  I really don't know how to answer it, to be honest.  I guess I always hope I'm being original.  I mean, unless you're writing fan-fiction, aren't we all trying to be original?

But I don't think the two things are actually mutually exclusive.  You can be wholly original and still give readers what they want.  Readers want a compelling story, complex, relatable characters and strong writing without spelling and grammar errors.  And that's what I try to give them.

Some genres have accepted tropes, particularly things like romance and if you deviate too far from these tropes, readers may not enjoy the story as much, regardless of how original you make the story.  I fell into this trap myself - The Sidewalks Regrets is technically a romance story, but romance readers didn't respond to it the way I'd hoped because while I feel the ending is a happy one, the couple don't live happily ever after or even happy for now.  

Sorry if that's a spoiler for those who haven't read it... Luckily other readers did respond to it, but I don't tend to refer to it as a romance anymore.  And the next time I write a romance, I will make sure it does have a happy-ever-after, even if the rest of the story doesn't follow all the romance tropes.

I tend to write stories I want to read and I want to read stories about things that I haven't seen in books before.  So in that sense I guess I try to be original.  At least as much as anything can be original.  Aren't there only six stories in the world?  And we all just keep retelling them in our own ways?

Do you try to be original?  Or do you write to readers' expectations?