Thursday, February 21, 2013


I've been thinking about writing my book since July last year. I've been brainstorming and talking about it, writing notes everywhere and creating this world in my head.

Finally it's time to write. I have a new computer, I have Scrivener and I know where my story needs to head.... but something is stopping me. I hit a roadblock and so I procrastinate. My FH tells me to JUST WRITE! He says it doesn't matter how terrible it is now, so just keep writing. But I'm struggling.

I could just write, but I feel it's a bad way to start off. If you know you're book is terrible, do you just keep going and deal with it later or do you sit there and try and try to fix it?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Trapped in my imagination

I've started noticing lately that when I really think about my book, about the plot, the characters and where the book is heading, I get trapped in my imagination. It's almost like I leave planet earth and take a vacation inside my head. I've started calling it my writing coma. Honestly, my eyes glaze over and I don't notice anything that is going on around me and I just slip into this world of writing.

The weird thing is, I don't necessarily have to be sitting or lying down!

Take this morning for example. I was heading to town on the bus. Usually on my bus rides I get engrossed in a book. However on my walk to the bus stop I was thinking about my own WIP and the plot. I was thinking how it might progress and what conflict my main character may meet. When the bus arrived, I was too wrapped up in my imagination to even open my book.

I started telling the story in my head. It plays out like a movie that I can edit and rewrite at every twist and turn. The characters will just stand there and look at me, waiting for my direction of what they must do next. Meanwhile, in reality, I'm sitting with a goofy look on my face, eyes glazed and totally not on this planet..... so pretty much looking like a good portion of New Yorkers on the subway in the morning.......Oh how I miss New York.

It's a good way though to zone out of reality and try out some ideas for your story. I've actually been doing this for years, creating little stories in my head to zone out to.

Does anyone else do this, or is it just me.....!?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: The Dry Grass of August (Anna Jean Mayhew)

The Dry Grass of August
Written By: Anna Jean Mayhew
Published By: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Published On: April 1, 2011
Pages: 352

In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood--and for the woman who means the world to her. . .

On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family's black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there--cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father's rages and her mother's benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.

Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents' failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence. . .

Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us--from child to adult, from wounded to indomitable
Firstly, I love the cover of this novel. It really gives me a sense of peace and tranquility. It also looks vintage because of the more sepia tones of the cover image which I really love.

I really love stories that are loosely based on the Civil Rights movement and The Dry Grass of August doesn't disappoint. It's told from the perspective of Jubie, a young white girl who's life isn't particularly easy. Her dad is not a very good guy, yet despite the whippings he regularly gives her, Jubie still looks up to him... at least at first. The family, minus Jubie's dad, get on the road to head down to Florida to see other members of the family. It's there that Jubie starts to witness the discrimination against their African-American maid, Mary. However, it's not until they end up in a small Southern town that they really start to run into trouble. It is this trouble that teaches Jubie a lot about the way of the world in 1950 America.

I don't want to ruin the story for you so I can't say too much but I will say this book is an emotional roller coaster. At it's core, it explores the relationship between a white girl and her black maid, but there is so much more to it than that. There are a lot of twists and turns you really won't see coming, and it seems every member of the family is keeping more than a few secrets.

I really liked the characters - I felt they were well developed and seemed very realistic. Each character added something significant to the story and built up the layers both of the family dynamic within Jubie's family, and to the state of 1950's American society. Throughout the book you are really able to get inside Jubie's head and relate to her and what she was going through at different stages of the story. Right on the brink of adolescence, Jubie has to deal with more than growing up - she has to deal with loss, betrayal and injustice in the worst way possible.

I was a little disappointed in the ending. I feel it almost just...ended without having a solid 'happily ever after'. I also felt a little like the sub-story of Jubie's dad and uncle seemed a little disconnected from the main story. It took a long time to understand how it fit in with everything else that was going on. Plus a little more development on Jubie's dad could have been nice. However, the pluses of this book, and the incredible realistic story outweighs any negatives.

Overall it's an excellent book about race relations in the 1950s. I would say it's almost The Secret Life of Bees meets The Help. It's well written, the story is great, and despite the pace being slightly slower than other stories I've read lately, I think that works. In fact I think it adds something to the story. I would definitely recommend it. I give The Dry Grass of August 5 stars.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Hello, my name is Leo and I'm a Lion

I don't think I'd be surprising anyone if I told them I have some very random thoughts go through my head. Sometimes I come up with something pretty awesome that I surprise myself, other times I really need to keep my mouth shut so I'm not given that classic "what are you talking about" look

Yep, this look. Photo is a screenshot :)

 Today I was playing with my dog and I couldn't help but wonder what he thought about. That led to me thinking about books that are told from the perspective of an animal and what kind of animal I would choose to write a story about.

There are a few animals I would love to give a voice to. Many of these have already been written about in the past, but I'd love to either be a Bengel tiger in Bangladesh; a rat who lives underneath the subway in New York City; a polar bear in the Arctic; a Fur Seal in Southland, New Zealand; a Koala in Australia .. during a bushfire, or a conniving Weka in the Able Tasman of New Zealand. 

So, I'm curious, if you could write a book from the perspective of any animal, what would it be and what would the setting be?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

RTW: Best Book of January

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing or reading related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hope from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic :)

This week's question is talking about the best book of January.

To be honest with you, it's a hard one to answer! I've read some really fabulous books lately. I read On the Jellicoe Road, which is an old one by Melina Marchetta which although I found it a bit hard to get into I ended up really loving it. I finally read The Book Thief which despite being hugely depressing was a great book, and of course Please Ignore Vera Dietz which was very well done. 

The best book though? Well I have a tie. My absolute favourite was The Fault in our Stars. I have since told everyone to read this book. My FH, my mum, both my sisters, my auntie and a number of my friends have all gotten stuck into this book and loved it just as much.

.Front Cover

It's written by John Green and is narrated by Hazel Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old cancer patient who's life changes dramatically when she meets fellow cancer sufferer Augustus "Gus" Waters. The story follows Hazel, as she fights with cancer and her parents while navigating this mysterious new relationship with Gus.

The story is beautifully and honestly told, it's funny, it's heartbreaking and it's most certainly a memorable read. I'd highly recommend this one.

The second book that I would recommend is JK Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy.

Now, this book has been subject to huge debate. It's not Harry Potter. Absolutely not. There is no ounce of a magical world within these pages at all. So if you see JK Rowling and expect Harry Potter, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. 

It is true this book does take a long time to set the scene. It's a little slow and very busy body, but I feel all of this is quite interesting. Seeing the different characters, the different voices of the novels and really getting inside their heads - the meek, the power hungry, the nasty, the manipulative, the scared... they're all there. I remember mentioning to my FH while I read this that it was interesting getting inside each characters head because you could quite clearly relate those characters to people in your own life.

The book is very well written. The climax near the end comes out of no where and is so completely surprising and heart breaking. I really found the book very real and relatable.

It is a black comedy, and some of it is pretty dark. It's not YA, I should mention that, but the other thing is that it's very British. The humour is British and that is perhaps why some have disliked it so much. It's certainly not for everyone but I do urge people to give it a try. I was very hesitant to read it after seeing a number of negative reviews but my friend pushed me into it and I'm so glad she did. It was worth it. 

If you've read either of these books I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on them? Otherwise, what was your best January book? 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Are books dangerous?

When I was at university I took a paper that examined the impact of television on its audiences. There were studies that suggested the material that was shown on television had such an impact on those watching that it could alter their personality. The researchers of these studies believed many television shows made audience members more fearful of the world and strangers. They also suggested that the violence shown on television made people more violent in their daily life.

They even had statistics to show how many more gun incidents had occurred after gun related drama on television and how many terrorist attacks were of a similar nature to those shown in television shows and movies. The researchers were basically saying people copied the violence they saw on TV.

These studies were largely conducted from the 1950s to the 1980s when television was relatively new. Now, books are obviously much older than television yet in the past fifty or so years it seems they've changed somewhat, content wise. We see a lot more sex, drugs, violence, and profanity in all mediums now. I think the internet has really changed the way we conduct ourselves as citizens of society. We're a lot more uncontrolled and open and this is bleeding into film, TV and books.

For the most part, books aren't really controversial. They generally don't make the news ... well unless it's 50 Shades of Grey of course.  But overall, books don't have a bad rap. They're that traditional form of entertainment that could be seen as "good" and "pure". When you read, your brain is working, unlike when you watch TV which requires less brain cells than sleeping (or so said my anti-tv, anti-microwave room mate from my college days).

So what I'm wondering is, do you think books have the potential to have the same effect as what these researchers believed years ago. In fact, do you believe this could still be correct about television? Especially now that we have the internet. Do you think the content of books could be dangerous and action provoking? Could the violence in books give readers ideas of violence? Or do you think books are just opening our minds to the world of imagination?

This is just a thought that kept me awake last night.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty (Joshilyn Jackson)

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
Written By: Joshilyn Jackson
Published By: Grand Central Publishing
Published on: January 2012
Pages: 352

A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.

I can't remember what drew me to this book in the first place. I think it was the cover of the book. I like pretty things and the cover... well it looks very pretty! It probably helps that it has the word pretty in there, plus I love the dress the cover model is wearing.

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is certainly a different style of book than what I usually read. It's narrated by the three main characters, Mosey, Liza and Big (Jenny). Each of the three are exactly fifteen years apart. Both Big and Liza had babies at the age of fifteen and now Liza's daughter Mosey is terrified she is going to follow in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and find herself pregnant, despite the fact she still hasn't lost her virginity.

The main event that sets the book in motion is when Big has the tree in their backyard pulled down so they can install a swimming pool to help rehabilitate Liza after her stroke. Upon pulling down the tree they come across a tiny grave buried in the garden. Mosey then goes on a mission to figure out who's body is buried in the garden and where she fits into the whole saga, Big quickly figures out what's going on and turns her attention to making the problem go away, while Liza tries to pull herself out of her stroke-ravaged mind and her memories to help her mother keep their family together.

I loved the mystery of this novel. Throughout every chapter you were given small clues to help you put the pieces together. You will often believe you've sold the mystery only to have your ideas debunked in the next chapter. I don't often read mystery books, mostly because I get so frustrated when I can't put the pieces together, but I loved this one. It certainly kept me reading. In fact, I couldn't put the book down.
At the end of each chapter would usually be something huge, and of course you'd want to know what happens next, but the next chapter is narrated by one of the other characters and you have to wait two chapters before you find out what happens next, by which time you're dying to find out about what happens next to the other characters too. Obviously it's a vicious cycle.

I loved the characters of the novel. Big was probably my favourite. At only 45 she is a grandmother of a teenager, plus the primary caregiver of her daughter who's stroke has left her totally dependent on others. On top of that she has some serious spunk, a big heart and she will do absolutely anything to protect her family. Plus there's a little bit of a love story going on there which adds a bit of excitement!

Mosey is an interesting character. She's a very sweet, somewhat of a dorky teenager who is kind of awesome. At the same time, she's incredibly stubborn, can be ridiculously stupid, and makes some really bad decisions, however it really adds to her character. It makes her a real believable teenager. She's not the type of teenager who is angry at the world and running around getting into trouble. She keeps secrets and she can be rude to her mother and grandmother but despite what Big thinks, she's actually a good kid.

Liza is one I wasn't so wild about. It's hard to really get into Liza's head because ... well... she can't even get inside her head. However, the memories she dredges up are important pieces of the story. It helps put together the puzzle of the body in the garden, and helps explain the family's relationship with one of the richest and rudest family's in town.  The way Liza acted before she had her stroke doesn't make me like her too much, but without her pre-stroke actions, none of the events of the book would have happened.

All the characters pull the novel together really nicely and it's interesting to know the perspective of all three of them throughout the story. I felt like I got really invested in all three of the characters lives. I feared for them, I worried about what would happen to them, and got angry at them when they made the wrong decisions. I love books that make you feel so strongly about the characters.

I was really impressed by this book. It's the type of story that hooks you in and doesn't let you go, even after you've read the last page.
I give A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty 5 stars and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good page turner!