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?