Sunday, December 24, 2023

Happy Holidays!

 


Have a wonderful holiday, however you celebrate.

The blog will be dark for a week or so while I'm on vacation, but I will look forward to catching up with you all again in 2024.




Thursday, December 21, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 22-12-23

 

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 holidays!

Yes, we finished work for the year yesterday, so I am now on holiday until 8 January.  It's not really long enough, but I will try to get another week or so off mid-year next year.  

I haven't really had time to focus at all on Christmas yet, so today is going to be that day.  I'm also going to go to the library and get a bunch of books to read while I'm in Kaiteriteri next week. I might also go to the movies...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Books I've Read: Out of the Clear Blue Sky

 


After the darkness of Young Mungo, I decided I needed to read something fluffy and lighthearted so I picked up a romance novel.  I mean, what's fluffier than a romance novel?

Well, this one wasn't as fluffy as I might have expected, but it did the trick.

Set on Cape Cod, this book follows Lillie Silva as she deals with dramatic life changes as her only son leaves home and her husband leaves her for a younger, wealthier woman.  While Dylan's departure for college was expected and she was preparing for it, her husband's affair comes out of nowhere and Lillie is not just hurt, she's furious.

So much so, she finds herself doing things she'd never have even considered before.  Like letting a skunk loose in the house she sold to the wealthy widow her husband is now living with.  Or dressing like Death and crashing their wedding so her image has to be Photoshopped out of all the wedding pictures. But somehow even doing these spiteful things doesn't make her feel better.  Did she ever really love Brad, or did she just like being a wife?

As she moves further away from Brad's betrayal, Lillie finds herself opening up to new relationships- with the sister she's never quite forgiven for choosing to live with their mother after their parents split and Ben, with whom she was in a car crash as a teenager and has never fully forgiven either.  And then there's Ophelia, the niece of Brad's new wife and even Melissa, the other woman who might not be exactly what she seems on the surface.

I don't often read this kind of book because I find them really formulaic. But sometimes that's quite comforting because you know nothing is going to jump out and devastate you and that by the end of the book the characters are going to live happily ever after. Or at least for now...

I quite liked Lillie and found her reaction to her husband's betrayal both hilarious and real.  I can imagine myself reacting in much the same irrational way if I was in that situation.  Unfortunately there are no skunks in New Zealand...

So while this isn't a book that's going to change your life - you may not even remember it a week or two after you read it - but it was enjoyable enough and it did lift the darkness from my soul that Young Mungo left.

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

Lillie Silva knew life as an empty nester would be hard after her only child left for college, but when her husband abruptly dumps her for another woman just as her son leaves, her world comes crashing down. Besides the fact that this announcement is a complete surprise (to say the least), what shocks Lillie most is that she isn't...heartbroken. She's furious.

Lillie has loved her life on Cape Cod, but as a mother, wife and nurse-midwife, she's used to caring for other people...not taking care of herself. Now, alone for the first time in her life, she finds herself going a little rogue. Is it over the top to crash her ex-husband's wedding, dressed like the angel of death? Sure! Should she release a skunk into his perfect new home? Probably not! But it beats staying home and moping.

She finds an unexpected ally in her glamorous sister, with whom she's had a tense relationship all these years. And an unexpected babysitter in of all people Ben Hallowell, the driver in a car accident that nearly killed Lillie 20 years ago. And then there's Ophelia, her ex-husband's oddly lost niece, who could really use a friend.

It's the end of Lillie's life as she knew it. But sometimes the perfect next chapter surprises you...out of the clear blue sky.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Weekly goals 18-12-23

 It's the last week of work before the holidays and it's going to be  busy one! I have a cray amount of work to gt through before we close up on Thursday.  Plus I still have most of my Christmas shopping to do!  I'm going to be a busy bee on Friday, I think.

So no writing this week (again).  But I have high hopes for the week after since I'm going to be away at the beach with only my folks most of the time.  So if it's wet, I'll just lock myself away with my MS until the sun comes out again. Determined to have Guide Us query ready before the end of January.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 15-12-23





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 there are only a handful of work days left until the holidays!

I have a busy weekend ahead, but all fun stuff, so I'm looking forward to it.  And then we only have four more days of work before the office closes and we go on holiday.  Very excited about that!  I just hope the weather improves because it's been pretty terrible since "summer" began.  There was a massive hail storm and tornado on Tuesday!  In Wellington!

I haven't done much Christmas shopping yet, but I'll get there.  Small group of people to shop for this year.  Can't wait for that ordeal to be over.  Then the actual holiday can begin.  Looking forward to going to the beach and relaxing for a week.  And I'm going to take my writing work with me in case it rains a lot.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Books I've Read: Young Mungo


I picked this one up at the library because it's by the same author as Booker Prime winner, Shuggie Bain.  And like Shuggie Bain, it's a bleak, realistic, somewhat gruelling look at life as a poor person in Glasgow.

Mungo is the youngest child of a woman who was too young when she started having kids.  His older brother runs a group of young thugs and expects Mungo to be a part of his gang or at the very least, be hard enough not to embarrass him.  His sister adores him and has basically brought him up since their mother is given to drunken rages and disappearing for days on end.

When Mungo meets James, a Catholic who lives in the street behind him, they become friends. Everything Mungo has been searching for in his life becomes reality with James.  Yet because of the sectarian divide in their city,  the pair should be sworn enemies.  Their friendship must be a secret and when they fall in love, even more so.

Mungo has to keep his true self hidden from everyone around him because in the world in which he lives, violence is only ever a second away.  James and Mungo dream of leaving Glasgow, of finding a place where they will be safe and able to love one another without fear.  But is it ever really possible to leave?

The story is told across multiple time periods, partly on a fishing trip to a loch where things become more and more sinister for Mungo and partly in the past as Mungo remembers the events leading up to his being sent on the fateful trip.

This is a grim book, even harrowing in parts.  These are hard lives and people who have done what they had to do to survive them.  But there are moments of light and hope and Mungo's certainty that there is something better for him out there keeps things from becoming unbearable.

I can't say I really enjoyed this book, but I liked it a lot - more than Shuggie Bain actually - and I do recommend it.  It's just a tough read.  But I think it's worth it.

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

Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars--Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic--and they should be sworn enemies if they're to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds.

As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo's mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.

Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Weekly Goals 11-12-23

 It looks like I somehow missed my Friday Celebrate post last week.  Not entirely sure how that happened, but at this time of year, everything is so crazy, I guess I just missed it.  Apologies!

It's my immediate boss's last week in the office this week, so it's going to be a busy one as we race to wrap up the year.   Once again, I'm not going to Mae any writing goals because I know I won't meet any of them.  I think I'll do well just to get my Christmas shopping started!

What are your goals this week?

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ISWG: December

 


It's the first Wednesday in December, so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

The awesome co-hosts for the December 6 posting of the IWSG are C. Lee McKenzie, JQ Rose, Jennifer Lane, and Jacqui Murray!


This month's question is an interesting one:

Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book reviews do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?

I write book reviews every week, so this question is right up my alley!

Reviews are for readers.  If the author gets something useful out of it, then that's a bonus, but at the heart of it, book reviews are there to let other readers know what you thought and if it is worth their while to pick up that book to read themselves.  And they are personal.  A book I loved and couldn't praise more highly could be universally loathed by other readers.

I think a good book review should give a little bit of information about what the book is about - not a full synopsis and not a regurgitation of the blurb - and then outline the things you liked and disliked about it.  I very rarely write reviews that are 100% negative.  There is always something to like about a book, even if you didn't enjoy it.

There is no need to bring the author into a review unless you're pointing out something particularly interesting or unusual that they might have done with the story or the prose in the book you're reviewing.  You're reviewing the book, not the author, so there is no need to get personal.

A lot of authors say they don't look at their reviews, but as an author myself, I think there is a lot you can learn from reading what readers thought.  Most of us hope to write and publish more than one book, so reading reviews and understanding what parts of a story resonated, or didn't with readers can help you make better decisions in future books.

Some reviews to hurt.  Especially when it's clear the reader has entirely missed some key point or misunderstood something crucial to understanding the character or the plot.  But not everyone reads the same way and it is never a good idea to reach out to a reviewer and tell them they're wrong.  Reviews are subjective and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Do you review as a reader or as a writer?

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Weekly Goals 4-12-23

 Another busy week ahead with multiple Christmas parties as well as all the other work I have to get through.  Plus, I'm doing a course on Thursday morning.

So, once again, I'm not setting myself any writing goals for the week - I know I'm probably not going to have time to do any writing.  I guess it's not actually a bad thing to have this time away from my MS because when I go back to it, I'm going to have fresher eyes that I would have if I'd gone back to do the read-through right after finishing the revisions.

I really must get onto thinking about Christmas and what I need to get for everyone.  I haven't done a single thing and haven't even started looking around to see what I could do in terms of gifts.  It's only three weeks away...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 1-12-23

  


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 has been another busy week so I am looking forward to a little downtime.  Not that the weekend isn't already booked up with various things.  I'm going up the coast on Sunday to see my friend which should be nice.  Unfortunately the weather looks like it's going to be a bit shit, so I don't think we'll get to walk on the beach this time.

I've managed to ride my bike to work once this week, which is an improvement on last week.  Maybe next week the weather will settle down a bit more and I can get a couple more rides in.  Hoping Wednesday will be fine because I need to be at work at 6:30 in the morning that day, and it will be far quicker and easier to ride than to try and navigate the buses at that hour.

I haven't done any writing work.  There just aren't enough hours in the day.  I think I will leave it until the holidays and just set aside a couple of days to blitz any last revisions then.  It's the only way I think I'll get it done.

What are you celebrating this week?


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Books I've read: Carrie Soto is Back

 


Unlike most of the world, I was not a huge fan of Daisy Jones and the Six, but I have read another, earlier book by Taylor Jenkins Reid which I enjoyed, so I thought I'd give this one a shot.

It follows the career of Carrie, a tennis player at the the top of her game, holding the record for the most Grand Slams won.  She retires while she's at the peak of her career, knowing she's the best.

But seven years later a hot young player called Nicki Chan is hot on the heels of beating that record and Carrie just can't stand to be beaten.  So rather than let that happen, she comes out of retirement, gets her old coach (her dad) back on board and decides to compete for one last season to try and hold onto her record.

Carrie has always been fiercely determined.  She has a single-minded focus on winning and won't let anything or anyone get in the way of her getting what she wants.  This earned her the nickname Battle Axe when she was on the tour the first time, and no one is that thrilled to see her return.  Especially the sports journalists who don't believe she has a chance against the new generation of players.

But nothing has changed in Carrie's personality during her retirement.  She will still do anything to win.  Even play with the lover she once spurned, Bowe Huntly, a player hoping to make one last splash of his own before retirement.

I really enjoyed this book. The details of the behind-the-scenes world of elite tennis felt authentic and Carrie is a fascinating character in her single-minded pursuit of her goals.  She's not terribly likeable a lot of the time, but maybe you can't care too much about that if you're trying to be the best.  As she fights her way through her final season, you find yourself rooting for her even when she's behaving obnoxiously.  

And she does change by the end of the season.  Maybe not as much as you might hope, but in reality, how much do people ever really change?  Maybe sometimes a little can be a lot.

So I'd recommend this one.

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

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular.

By the time Carrie retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Slam titles. And if you ask her, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father as her coach.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning, British player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked the 'Battle-Axe' anyway. Even if her body doesn't move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all: Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells a story about the cost of greatness and a legendary athlete attempting a comeback.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Weekly Goals 27-11-23

 The year is rushing away at alarming speed!  Can you believe it's December this week?  I haven't even started thinking about Christmas yet.  I should probably get onto that...

I didn't get any writing done (or indeed anything) done over the weekend.  We went out of town on Friday night (in terrible weather I might add) and made it to our accomodation.  We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant then went back to the Air B & B and hung out, listening to the rain and speculating if it was going to stop any time soon.

The next morning we got up early and packed ourselves up to drive up the road to the air show.  It was pretty fine when we first got up, but by the time we got to the aerodrome, it was pouring again.  And cold.  We parked the car just in time for the organisers to pull the plug and postpone the event until Sunday.  We'd only booked the accommodation for one night, so going back there wasn't an option.  We debated trying to find somewhere else for a second night and staying over there, but in the end we decided it would be cheaper to drive home and then back the next day.

So we did.  Which meant most of Saturday was gone by the time we got home.  And we left at 7:30 on Sunday morning to get there again.  Luckily the weather was better on Sunday and most of the planes we were supposed to see managed to get there.  Not all of them though.  My son was a bit bitter about one he really wanted to see not making it.  But at least he finally got to use the tickets he got for Christmas in 2020.  There have been a lot of cancellations...

Anyway, that was a very longwinded way of saying I didn't get any writing work done over the weekend.  And I doubt I will get any done next weekend either, since I already have plans which will take up most of both days.  Maybe the following weekend...

God knows when I'm going to get any Xmas shopping done....

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 24-11-23

 


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 we're going away.  Only for a night, to take my younger son to an airshow he's very excited about. But it's a night away from home!  Although there is supposed to be some pretty dreadful weather this weekend, so I have my fingers crossed it won't be cancelled (again).  It could be a kind of miserable experience anyway, but I'm hoping for the best,  And packing my raincoat!

Another busy week at work, but I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.  It still feels manageable at the moment, so that's a good thing.

I haven't had a chance to look at Guide Us again, but that's probably a good thing.  I should leave it a week or two before I go back in, let the changes settle and my brain let things go a bit before I go back to see if they work. But I'm deftly determined to finish this before the end of the year.  I'd like to get my first queries out in January and early February, before the Festival starts and consumes my life for a month or so.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Books I've Read: Girl on the Run


I've read and loved almost all of Abigail Johnson's books so I was excited to discover this one when I was looking for something to read on my Kindle. 

It's about a girl called Kaitlyn who has never really thought to question her mother's intense over-protectiveness, why they move so often and the odd things she's forced Kaitlyn to learn.  Her mother has been the only constant in her life, so Abigail just adores her and goes along with these things.  But when she gets her first boyfriend, she starts thinking that her mother deserves the same kind of happiness and without asking, sets up an online dating profile for Mom.

She expected her mother to be annoyed, sure, but she'd get over it when she realised how happy she could be.

She did not expect her mother's reaction t be so extreme.  Within minutes of finding out about the dating account, Kaitlyn and her mother are on the run, stealing cars and holing up in seedy motel rooms as they escape from something Kaitlyn can't even begin to understand.

To try and keep her safe, Kaitlyn's mother leaves her alone, but it isn't long before trouble knocks on the motel room door and Kaitlyn is forced to run herself.  As she tries to track down her mother and find out the truth about herself and the past her mother had tried desperately to keep from her, she discovers things about herself and her capabilities she could never have dreamed of.

This was a fast paced thriller with a few good twists and turns.  Every chapter ended on a cliff-hanger, daring you to turn the page and keep reading.  It just felt a bit formulaic and I never really warmed to Kaitlyn or the guy she grudgingly begins to trust as they hunt for the truth.  And I won't spoil it for you, but the ending really didn't do it for me.

It feels very much like a first book, so I wasn't that surprised to discover in a an author's note at the end that this was an early book for Johnson and that she always loved it and dug it back out after publishing some of her other books and gussied it up for publication.  I have books like that.  Early attempts that I still feel enormous affection for.  Characters that still haunt me.  I just know they're not good enough to be published and I'll let them linger on my hard drive for my eyes only.

I kind of wish Johnson had done that with this one.  It's not terrible, but it's not great and her other books are great.  So I don't really recommend this one. Read something else by Abigail Johnson and you won't be disappointed.

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

A fast-paced original paperback thriller about a girl who discovers that her mother might not be who she says she is . . . and now someone is hunting them both.

Katelyn wants the best for her widowed mom. Surprising her with an online dating profile seems like a good idea.

It isn't. Katelyn's mom hasn't just been acting overprotective all these years--she's been hiding something. And now that anyone can find them online, Katelyn is in a desperate race against time to uncover the secrets of the past--not only her mom's, but also her own.

As Katelyn's world unravels, she begins to trust the guy who brought this nightmare to her door and to doubt the one person she never thought she would. Because her mom has been hiding for a reason: she's been waiting.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Weekly Goals 20-11-23

 Well, I did it.  I finished Guide Us (again).  All I need to do now is do a full read through to make sure the changes I made and the new timeline are fully bedded in.  I also have a couple of scenes I wrote and cut back out because they didn't work in those places that I'd like to try and find spots for.  But that's more a nice-to-have than an essential.

I think this might be one of the better books I've written.  I could be wrong there, but it feels like something quite special.  If anyone wants to do a beta read for me, I'd love some fresh eyes on it in a week or two.  Given how late in the year it is, I think I'll probably leave querying until 2024, so there's plenty of time.

In terms of goals, I'd like to get that read through done this week, but we're going away over the weekend, so I suspect I may not get to it until the week after.  And I guess I need to start thinking about Christmas.  People keep telling me it's only about 30 days away..

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 17-11-23




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

What am I celebrating this week?

It's been a busy week, but all very enjoyable stuff.  I got to go and see one of my favourite singers, Kristen Hersh,  play a solo show last night, which was really fun.  It's been a few years since I've seen her and she always does the coolest shows.  She's an amazing storyteller, and her stories are always as much fun as her songs.

The weather isn't supposed to be great over the weekend, so I'm hoping to get a few hours to really get stuck into the one chapter of Guide Us where I need to add some stuff.  Not 100% sure I'm going to get that time since I have quite a few other things I need to do over the weekend, including catching up with the friend I was with in Samoa in July.  But we shall see!

I need to try and get all the chores done this week too because next weekend we're going away for an airshow which was my son's Xmas present last year.  It was supposed to happen in March, but when the cyclone hit the Hawkes Bay, all the airforce planes were going to be used for cyclone relief, so they moved it into November.  I'm not massive aviation wonk like my son, but it will be nice to get out of town for a couple of days.

What are you celebrating this week?






Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Books I've Read: Brother & Sister Enter the Forest

 



I picked this up at the library because the title was kind of fairy-tale-like and it intrigued me.  But this is no fairy tale!

The book begins with Justin showing up on his sister's doorstep needing a place to stay.  She hasn't seen him for several years and is reluctant to let him in.  As kids, Willa took care of Justin, protected him from their mother's clear dislike of her son.  But after Justin's actions wrecked havoc on her own life, Willa has tried to keep away from him.

But when it becomes clear that Justin has nowhere else to go, Willa lets him stay.

Willa lives a carefully ordered life, working as a nurse and building dioramas re-enacting her childhood trauma in her spare time.  She isn't close to anyone except her childhood best friend and likes to keep it that way, even with her boyfriend.  But Justin tries to get to know all the people in her life and she's uncomfortable with this.  Especially when the strength of their bond is tested as Justin's sobriety wavers.

The books plays out in two timelines: the present where Willa and Justin are adults, struggling to recover from events in the past,  and those past events that led to the strain in their relationship.

As a teenager Justin got involved with a slightly older man and convinced himself he was in love because this guy offered him an escape from his home and his mother's disapproval. But when he commits an horrific act of violence, he and Justin go on the run and the repercussions damage Justin and his family forever.

I liked the slow way this book unfolded with little details being dropped in here and there. It took until well into the book to fully understand how damaged Justin really is and even longer to figure out why.  And once you understand all these things, Willa's actions early in the book make a lot more sense.

I like a book that takes its time to reveal the truth and this one did that masterfully, keeping things compelling enough that you wanted to keep reading, even when the characters were behaving in truly dreadful ways toward each other.

So I'd recommend this one.  It's quite heavy in places, but it's a book about trauma and its effect on people long after the traumatic event so one kind of expects that.

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

Opening like a fairy tale and ending like a nightmare, this cannonball of a queer coming-of-age novel follows a young man's relationship with a violent older boyfriend—and how he and his sister survive a terrible crime

After years of severed communication, Justin appears on his sister’s doorstep needing a place to stay. The home he's made for himself has collapsed, as has everything else in his life. When they were children, Willa played the role of her brother’s protector, but now, afraid of the chaos he might bring, she’s reluctant to let him in.

Willa lives a carefully ordered life working as a nurse and making ornate dioramas in her spare time. As Justin tries to connect with the people she’s closest to—her landlord, her boyfriend, their mother—she begins to feel exposed. Willa and Justin’s relationship has always been strained yet loving, frustrating and close. But it hits a new breaking point when Justin spirals out of control, unable to manage his sobriety and the sustained effects of a brain injury.

Years earlier, in high school, desperate to escape his home life and his disapproving, troubled mother, Justin falls into the hands of his first lover, a slightly older boy living on his own who offers Justin some semblance of intimacy and refuge. When Justin’s boyfriend commits a terrifying act of violence, the two flee on a doomed road trip, a journey that will damage Justin and change his and his family’s lives forever.

Weaving together these two timelines,
Brother & Sister Enter the Forest unravels the thread of a young man’s trauma and the love waiting for him on the other side.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Weekly Goals 13-11-23

 I didn't get any work done on Guide Us over the weekend.  I ended up feeling quite gross for most of the weekend - tired and headachy - so I ended up not doing very much at all.

So this week's goal is to do that work.  I think I have about half a chapter to write and then I'm done apart from going back through to make sure my timeline changes are bedded in right.  So it really should not be too hard.

And here's something fun I did with a new(ish) book finding site called Shepherd.  They asked me for a list of my top reads of the last 12 months.  Compare it with what everyone else has been reading during the last year.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 10-11-23

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

It has been an intense week at work with the full programme of our flagship Festival going live yesterday.  It's always a fraught process, and this time even more so because we were working with multiple ticketing platforms and discovered at the very last minute that things didn't work exactly the way we thought they would with one of them.

But we managed to get everything done and out into the world.  Now we just need to hope everyone buys lots of tickets to all the events!

So I'm looking forward to the weekend and getting some rest.  I'm hoping to get some more work done on Guide Us too.  Even if it is just a tiny bit. 

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Books I've Read: Nothing to See Here

 


It was the cover that attracted me to this one.  And then I read the description and it sounded sufficiently bonkers that I had to read it.

Lillian is kind of aimless, the kind of smart girl who has become trapped by her small town life.  In high school she had a shot at getting away, but it was never fulfilled.  The only good thing to have come out of her short stint at an exclusive boarding school was her friendship with Madison.  Lillian doesn't really think Madison owes her anything, but there is a sense that she took the fall for her friend.

So when Madison calls to ask for Lillian's help, she has nothing holding her back.  And she has to admit she's curious about her friend's husband's kids from his first marriage.  Surely Madison is pulling her leg.  Kids don't spontaneously catch on fire!

Yet these kids do.  It doesn't hurt them - they just burst into flame if upset or agitated or otherwise emotionally volatile.  Unfortunately furnishings, clothes, buildings etc do not do so well around kids afflicted in this way.

So Lillian finds herself becoming caretaker to these human torches, disturbed children who have just lost their mother and now find themselves living with a father they barely know and have been told terrible things about for years.  And with a position in government looming, their father has little time for them.

As the summer stretches on, Lillian finds herself beginning to care deeply for her charges and finds a strength within herself that might just change all their lives forever.

This book was kind of beautiful and sad at the same time.  Everything about the world these characters live in seems perfectly normal, except the fact these children burn.  Lillian's relationship with the kids as they learn to trust her feels ver real and honest.  Raising kids - any kids - can be tedious and frustrating and challenging.  Add in the physical danger of caring for kids who can catch fire at a moment's notice and that gets even harder.

Initially too scared to go too far from the house and the pool, Lillian learns to trust the kids the same way they learn to trust her and manages to expand the world in which these kids live.

While basically about the relationships between these children and their caretaker, the book also manages to satirise the very wealthy, politically ambitious through its depiction of Madison and her husband as they do whatever is necessary to ensure the husband's place on Capitol Hill.  Regardless what it might do to the kids.

So I'd recommend this one.  It's poignant and more than a little silly, but I enjoyed it.

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

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Weekly Goals 6-11-23

I got a bunch of work done on Guide Us over the weekend and I feel like it's almost there.  I moved a bunch of chapters around, changing the timeline a bit and I think that works better than the way I had it before.  I think I may need to move a couple more too, just to make the timings work.

But then, I think I'm pretty much done. I'll need to do a read through to make sure the changes I've made are bedded in properly and  I may need to write a couple of small scenes here and there to make the new timeline fit right, but after that, I think I may actually have finished.

So that's my only goal this week.  To actually finish this project once and for all.

What a long journey this has been!

What are your goals this week?

Friday, November 3, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 3-1-23

  

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 after working all of last weekend, I really need this break.  I'm actually taking Friday off as well to try and claw back some sanity.  And to write.

We'll see how that goes.  

The weather isn't supposed to be great over the weekend, so hopefully that will mean plenty of writing time for me!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

IWSG - November


It's the first Wednesday in November, so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group! 

The awesome co-hosts for this month are PJ Colando, Jean Davis, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diedre Knight!

And this months's question?

 November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

Why, yes.  Yes I have.  I have participated several times.  NaNo suits the way I like to write - draft fast, edit slowly.  Many of my published books (and several unpublished ones) started their lives as NaNo projects. I love the time pressure and the fact that you basically have to live your November inside your story to be able to pump out 50,000 words in 30 days.

But I know that kind kind of writing doesn't suit everyone.  One of my critique partners couldn't even bear the thought of doing NaNo because she liked to get every chapter right before she moved on to the next one.  NaNo doesn't let you do that.  And to her credit, her first drafts were always a thing of beauty because of the way she polished each chapter as she went.  She also outlined extensively before she started writing, so she knew exactly what was going to happen in each chapter before she got there.

I don't usually even break my books into chapters until I'm right at the end of the editing process.

So NaNo isn't for everyone.  But if you can overcome that urge to go back over what you've written before you start, silence that inner editor and give yourself over to the restive process, then it's a really good way to get words on a page.  Get that story out of your head and into a form you can start working on it.

I like to think of a NaNo draft as a zero draft.  It's never going to be perfect or even very good.  But at the end of November you have something you didn't have at the start, and there's a lot to be said for that.  Even if you don't "win" you have more than the blank page you started with.

Have you ever done NaNo?  Love it?  Hate it?

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Weekly Goals 30-10-23

 Can you believe it's the end of October?  Where the heck has the year gone?  The shops already have Christmas decorations up, for chrissakes!

The jazz festival finished last night and it looks like it was a success.  There were certainly a bunch of shows that had big numbers attending.  Now to do all the reporting that's required.  And get ready to go on sale for the big Festival in February/March.  All of which is happening in the next two weeks.

No rest for the wicked, eh?

So my goal this week is to try and take at least one day off work to try and get some writing done.  I had kind of hoped to do NaNo, but it has become abundantly clear that that's just not going to be possible.  Not without possibly killing myself.  Maybe next year...

And that's kind of it for goals.  I'm too tried to really think about anything else.  What are your plans for this week?


Thursday, October 26, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 27-10-23

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

Jazz Festival!  That's what I'm working on this week and so far it's to be going really well. We've had our two big, international Headline acts (GoGo Penguin and C├ęcile McLorin Salvant) over the last two nights and the weekend Headliners are all great local musicians.  Plus there are gigs to go to all over town at the bars and cafes etc.  It's going to be a pumping weekend!

Which means, of course, not a lot of free time for me.  Especially since I'm also taking my son to a  film at the Italian Film Festival tomorrow.  He's been studying Pompeii in his Classics class, so we're going to go and see a doco about Pompeii.  Hopefully it will inspire him because he has to write a couple of extra paragraphs for his final essay to pass that assignment.

Hoping to be able to take a day off at the end of next week to recover and maybe get some writing work done.  Guide Us is certainly not editing itself while I'm ignoring it.  Wouldn't it be nice if books did do that?

What are you celebrating this week?


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Books I've Read: The Guncle


I really enjoyed this author's earlier book, Lily and the Octopus, so when I saw this at the library, I thought I'd give it a go.

It's about a lonely gay man who has to take in his young nephew and niece after their mother (who was once his best friend) dies and their father (who is his brother) goes to rehab to recover from a pill addiction.  Patrick is not a natural at being a surrogate parent.  He has cultivated an existence for himself in Palm Springs which relies very much on routine and self-imposed rules.  Children, especially children who are grieving and unpredictable don't really fit into this carefully constructed world.

But Patrick takes on the challenge and begins by developing new rules that will work for their new reality - Guncle rules.  And as the summer stretches on, he finds himself coming to life again, something he hasn't allowed himself to even consider since he lost his partner in a car crash several years earlier.

I enjoyed this one even though Patrick started off feeling a little like a gay best friend character in a sitcom.  As the story developed, I warmed to him more, even though he did continually toss out one-line witticisms like said sitcom character too often.  As I got to know him better, it became obvious that this was his way of keeping himself aloof from others while seeming both charming and friendly.

The kids were a delight too.  They weren't precocious sitcom kids, but real, hurting children whose lives had been turned upside down.  That it took them so long to adjust to Patrick's world just felt natural.

So I'd recommend this one.  It's funny and poignant and I enjoyed it.

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

Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is honestly a bit out of his league.

So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting—even if temporary—isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Weekly Goals 23-10-23

 It's going to be a super busy week so I'm not going to set myself any important goals.  The Jazz Festival starts on Wednesday so I'm working every night, and there is a ton of other work to do too, so I'll be working during the day too.  I might take a couple of late starts, though...  We'll see.

But since today is a holiday, I hope to get a few hours to write.  I changed my mind about a chapter I we-wrote earlier in my revising Guide Us, so now I'm having to go back and change it again.  I suspect I may do quite a bit of that, now that those revisions are a few months old.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, October 20, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 20-10-23

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

It's a long weekend!  Yes, Monday is Labour Day for us here in New Zealand, so I have a three-day weekend to enjoy.  Which is great, because the Jazz Festival starts on Wednesday and that's going to take up a bunch of my time and energy for the five days it runs.  And then we have a big event two days later.  Plus a whole pile of funding rounds ending at the end of October that I need to get applications in for.

Phew!

So this weekend I'm going to rest.  And get a haircut.  And go and see the new Scorcese film (which is close to 4 hours long).  And maybe do a little writing too.  Definitely some reading.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Books I've Read: If Tomorrow Doesn't Come

 


This book was sad.  It was sad at the beginning and it was sad at the end.  But it didn't feel dour or overwrought.  It was kind of perfect for the subject matter.

At the start of the book Avery is about to kill herself.  She's depressed and has been for some time.  Darkness has been following her for years and she just can't see a way out other than to end it all.  Then her best friend calls.  The girl she's been secretly (and not so secretly) in love with for years. Cass tells her that scientists have discovered an asteroid hurtling toward earth.  The planet has nine days left until impact.  And Cass wants to be with Avery in that time.

The last time Cass and Avery spoke, they fought, so the knowledge that Cass still wants to see her is enough to spur Avery into action.  And not the action she left her dorm room to fulfil.  With panic rising everywhere, Avery, her roommate and her least favourite professor hit the road to try and get to the people they love.  

Once in the city, it becomes apparent that traveling anywhere far is not going to be possible.  Avery's roommate is not going to be able to get home to Nigeria.  The professor is probably not going to make it to Louisiana.  But by some miracle, Cass does manage to get back from New York, so in a stolen car, the group head to New Hampshire and Avery's family home.

With a finite time left to live, Avery fights to make it through these final days with the people she cares about.  But as time grows shorter, secrets come out and Avery finds that she not only has the strength to save the people she loves, she also has the strength to save herself.

This book depicts depression in a very real way.  That sense of hopelessness and dread permeates every page.  Yet the book doesn't feel too heavy.  I mean, it is heavy.  It's about the end of the world.  But Avery's depression doesn't drag the book down.  There are moments hope, sparks of light, and it is these things that keep people waking up day after day.  Even in a world days away from destruction.

Avery's family are a key part of this story and the clash between their values and Avery's go a long way to understanding Avery's fears and self doubt.  They have secrets and fears of their own, but have tried desperately to keep them from their children, to allow their kids to grow up without these shadows hanging over them.  

I'd recommend this one.  It's not a cheery number, but it's well written and opens the doors for some tough conversations about mental health, queer identity and more.

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

We Are Okay meets They Both Die at the End in this YA debut about queer first love and mental health at the end of the world-and the importance of saving yourself, no matter what tomorrow may hold.

Avery Byrne has secrets. She's queer; she's in love with her best friend, Cass; and she's suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.

Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.

If Tomorrow Doesn't Come is a celebration of queer love, a gripping speculative narrative, and an urgent, conversation-starting book about depression, mental health, and shame.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Weekly Goals 16-10-23

 We're just over a week out from the Jazz Festival so things at work are pretty crazy.  Especially since two days after the Jazz Festival finishes, we launch the programme for the big 3-week Arts Festival in February.  So things at work are pretty busy!  So I'm not setting any major goals for myself this week; I'd just fail to meet them and feel guilty about it.

It is a long weekend for Labour Day this week, so I'm hoping I might be able to use one of those days to write, but depending on the week I've had, that may not be possible.  Once we've got through the Jazz Fest and the programme launch and everything is on sale for the main Festival, I hope I can take a couple of days off to write.  I'd really like to finish Guide Us before the end of the year. 

Then I can start working on A Stranger to Kindness again.

What are your goals this week?


Friday, October 13, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 13-10-23

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

It's Friday!  And boy do I need a weekend this week...  So glad I have nothing of any significance planned.

My Murder Year has received a few more good reviews, so that's good news.  People seem to be enjoying it.  Even one of my work colleagues!

In not-so-good-news, one of my cats has gone missing.  It's been over a week now since I saw her and I've listed her has missing all over the place, put flyers in all the neighbours' letterboxes and messaged the son of my elderly neighbour who doesn't seem to be in her house anymore.  No sign of Lola.  She has done this before a few times and always come back, but this is getting on toward being the longest she's ever been gone for.

I hope she shows up soon.  I don't think Frankie likes being an only-cat.

What are you celebrating this week?


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Books I've Read: Don't Know Tough

 














This probably seems like an odd book for me to pick up given I have no interest in sports whatsoever, have only the most basic understanding of American Football and don't tend to sympathise with born-again Christians.

Having read it now, I still think it's an odd book for me to have picked up.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

Set in Arkansas, the book opens with Billy, a poor, trailer park kid whose only real talent is playing football.  And even on the football field he's kind of a liability if he loses his temper.  His narration is in dialect which was initially a little hard to read, but I quickly found myself sinking into his rhythm of speech.  In fact, when the story switched to a new POV in the second chapter, I found it a little jarring.

The other main POV character is Trent, the high school's new football coach who has just moved from California with his reluctant family in tow.  Trent is burning to be a success here after the team he coached back home suffered such humiliating losses, he was fired from his position.After seeing Billy play, Trent knows this big, angry kid is the key to having a winning season.

But keeping Billy on the team might be harder than he initially thought and when he discovers the reason behind Billy's uncontrollable rage, he makes it his mission to save the kid, body and soul.

When Billy's abusive step-father is found dead in his trailer, all eyes are on Billy as the murderer. With the pressure of the football playoffs mounting and fear of being imprisoned for life becoming a reality, no one is getting out of this town unscathed.

For a book written by a former football player, there was very little football in the book.  I still know as little about the game as I did going in.  

And I found the characters difficult to engage with because they all seemed to be just "types".  The born again Christian trying to save his soul through rescuing the abused young man whose life reminds him of his own before being saved.  The unhappy wife whose father gave young Trent all his chances.  The innocent young daughter who gets caught up in the whole mess.  The poor wife who stays with her abusive husband because she has no other choices.  No one felt like a real person with real thoughts and emotions.  Even Billy, whose voice is the strongest throughout the book.  And don;t get me started on Billy's older brother Jesse...

I also felt like the mystery aspect of the story was kind of buried beneath all the suffering and angst going on around it.  No one seemed very intent on finding out what really happened to the dude, even the Sheriff.

So while there were aspects of this book I quite liked, I can't really say I really enjoyed it much.  I felt like there was a really compelling story in there somewhere, but it wasn't realised by the characters as they were drawn.

Shame, really...

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

Friday Night Lights meets Southern Gothic, this thrilling debut is for readers of Megan Abbott and Wiley Cash.

In Denton, Arkansas, the fate of the high school football team rests on the shoulders of Billy Lowe, a volatile but talented running back. Billy comes from an extremely troubled home: a trailer park where he is terrorized by his unstable mother’s abusive boyfriend. Billy takes out his anger on the field, but when his savagery crosses a line, he faces suspension.

Without Billy Lowe, the Denton Pirates can kiss their playoff bid goodbye. But the head coach, Trent Powers, who just moved from California with his wife and two children for this job, has more than just his paycheck riding on Billy’s bad behavior. As a born-again Christian, Trent feels a divine calling to save Billy—save him from his circumstances, and save his soul.

Then Billy’s abuser is found murdered in the Lowe family trailer, and all evidence points toward Billy. Now nothing can stop an explosive chain of violence that could tear the whole town apart on the eve of the playoffs.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Weekly Goals 9-10-23

 With My Murder Year out in the world and generating reviews (there are 7 now on Goodreads), I feel like I can actually get back to writing again.  It feels like far too long since I last did that.

I hate taking a break from what I'm working on because it's often really hard to get back into it.  So this week I'm going to try and find my way back into Guide Us so I can (hopefully) finish the revising I was in the middle of.

I already know there is one part I added that I want to change and there's the whole two chapters I need to write to slow the timeline down a little which I'm not sure I know how to do.  I may need to switch around a whole lot of stuff to make things work.  I'm also not 100% sure I like extra party scene I added, and I feel like I could lose that if I moved everything down the timeline a little.

Ugh!  Revising is so frustrating sometimes. 

What are your goals this week?

Friday, October 6, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 6-10-23

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?


My Murder Year
is out!

And it got its first 5-star review too!

***** "This book right here, is the reason I love being a book blogger and getting to work with authors. I get to work with amazing authors like this one, that I may not have known about otherwise. I can't recommend this book enough." Fiction Lux

So I feel like that's a good start.  I'm hoping a few more reviews might come in over the weekend too.

What are you celebrating this week?



Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Insecure Writers Support Group: October



It's the first Wednesday in October so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group!

 The awesome co-hosts for the October 4 posting of the IWSG are Natalie Aguirre, Kim Lajevardi, Debs Carey, Gwen Gardner, Patricia Josephine, and Rebecca Douglass!

This month's question is very topical: 

The topic of AI writing has been heavily debated across the world. According to various sources, generative AI will assist writers, not replace them. What are your thoughts?

I'm sure there are ways AI will be able to help writers.  I'm just not sure exactly what they are yet.  I haven't played enough with ChatGPT to have figured out how it could help me as a writer, other than for things like form letters and more business-focused stuff.  I've used it to shorten text where I needed to meet a set word limit to fit in a form.

The one time I tried it out for some creative writing, I gave it the prompt I get daily from a writing website I use and asked it to write an 800 word story based on that prompt.  The results weren't spectacular.  The AI wrote words, but it wasn't a complete story to begin with and wasn't the full 800 words I'd asked for,  A bit more prompting and refining did leave me with a story based on the prompt and at the correct number of words, but it wasn't a great story.  The language was simplistic and lacked any emotional resonance.  The plot was pretty generic and it really didn't sound like something I would write.

Maybe I need to try again.

But maybe I don't.

I like writing.  When things are going well for me, I love the feeling of falling into my story and seeing where it might take me.   Because I don't plot ahead or outline, and rarely write in a linear way, I'm not sure how I could use AI to help me write my books.  Maybe there could be some uses in the editing stage?  If I need to lose some words from a MS?  I don't know.  It's not something I've thought a whole lot about.  I know how to write a book - I've done it 15+ times now - and I've done it without using AI.  I'm not sure why I'd change that when it works for me.

Especially when what ChatGPT puts out is so flat and uninteresting.  I guess you could use the bot to create something for you to work with, but from what I've seen, you'd end up rewriting pretty much everything it spat out, so why wouldn't you just write it yourself in the first place?

I would be open to experimenting with using AI to help with editing and revising, but wouldn't really know where to start with that.  And to be honest, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with loading my unpublished manuscript into ChatGPT to try it out.  How do I know that manuscript won't get spat out in its entirety to someone else who asks the bot to write a novel about X Y and Z?

So for now, I'm happy to let AI help draft my business letters, write forms and generic policy documents, or help me cut my funding application narrative down to the right number of words, but I'm not sure I'm ready to ask for its assistance with anything involving my creative writing.  Maybe I'm just old fashioned...

How do you feel about using AI as a writer?

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Weekly Goals 2-10-23

 Can you believe it's October already?  Where has this year gone?  It'll be Christmas again before we know it!

What are my goals this week?  Well, with My Murder Year releasing on Friday, I'm working to give that some profile when it hits the market.  It's been on pre-order for a while now, so I'm hoping some people have ordered it in advance and that some of the reviewers I've lined up get their reviews out around the release date.  And that the reviews are good!

With only three weeks now until the Jazz Festival, it's going to be busy at work.  Especially since the launch of the full programme for next year's Arts Festival is only a few days after the Jazz Festival finishes.  That's a lot of stuff going on at the same time.  So I'm not really anticipating having a lot of spare time for anything else until after that launch has happened.

What are your goals for this week?


Friday, September 29, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 29-9-23

 

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 it's been another crazy busy week, so having a couple of days off is going to be great, even though I have a lot of stuff to get through.

My Murder Year releases in a week, so I need to do some more promo work for that.  I actually can't wait until it's out so I can get back to actually writing again instead of using all my writing time to do marketing and promotion.  Which is what I do all week in my day job.  You'd think I'd be better at it...

The weather has been terrible all week, with rain and wind.  I have great hope that the sun might come out at least for a few hours this weekend.  I really want to spend a bit of time sitting in the sun and reading.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Books I've Read: My Week With Him

 


The description of this one sounded interesting, but it was actually kind of misleading...  The whole thing with the missing sister lasted a handful of pages and was actually kind of a minor part of the book, not the focus the way the blurb suggests. The book is actually about Nikki spending a week of Spring Break with her boyfriend and him trying to convince her to stay with him in their small-town and not pursue her dreams.

I didn't buy it.

Nothing about this story rang true for me.  Nikki never seemed to be scared or worried about her situation and kept pushing away people trying to help her.  If I was 18 and on my own for the first time with no family to fall back on, I'd be scared.  Even if I did have a super supportive boyfriend whose family seemed willing to take me in at the drop of a hat.

Even Nikki and Mal's friendship felt off to me.  While in a hotel, Mal tells Nikki a whole lot of his history, and it's pretty major stuff.  If these two were really the close friends the book wants you to believe they are, Mal's past shouldn't be a mystery to Nikki.  If she's spent as much time with him and his family as the book suggests, she'd know he was adopted at the age of ten.  I mean, didn't she wonder why there were no baby photos at his house?

Her relationship with her mother was troubled, and I get that.  Teenage girls often butt heads with their mothers.  But I never felt like Nikki was in any real danger from her mother, physically or emotionally.  The fights they had were the same kind of fights girls often have with their moms as they struggle to become their own person.  And her mother's explanation for why she acts the way she does didn't fully ring true to me either.

And then there was the whole sister relationship which was never fully developed.  And the fact Nikki has this dream of being a singer and an audition to get to, but doesn't seem that focused on actually getting there.  She talks about it a lot, but doesn't do a lot to actually get there.  She keeps letting things back home draw her back, even when she does leave.  And despite her saying how dreadful things are back home, nothing felt that bad because Mal was always there with his big house, plenty of money and parents who would do anything for him (and Nikki by extension).

So, I wouldn't recommend this one.  It's not a difficult read, but ultimately, it didn't feel satisfying.

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

"A cute portrait of agency, hope, and intergenerational trauma by Goffney. "— Publishers Weekly A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection pick! 

From Joya Goffney of Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, comes a stirring YA coming-of-age, best friends-to-lovers romance about a girl named Nikki who plans to run away from small-town Texas, but ultimately finds that her oldest friend, Mal, just might be the one who’s been there for her all along. Filled with heart and humor, this novel captures complex family drama, friendship, and love. 

For fans of I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest and Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan. Nikki can’t wait to leave Texas and follow her dreams of a music career . . . After a painful betrayal by her sister and a heated argument with their mother, Nikki is kicked out and finds herself homeless. She decides to go to California to pursue her singing career. When her best friend, Malachai, discovers her plan to flee Texas, he begs her to spend the remainder of spring break with him. He believes that over the course of a week, he can convince her to stay in Texas, or to at least graduate high school. But their plans are interrupted when Nikki’s little sister Vae goes missing. Nikki is forced to work alongside her difficult mother as they set off in search of Vae, with Malachai’s support. Will Nikki find a reason to stay in Texas, or will this spring break be the last time she sees them? Through her emotional journey, Nikki ultimately finds the love she’s always been missing and discovers the power of her own voice.