Tuesday, 30 June 2009

20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer. -(from the book cover)

Sarh Ockler has a beautiful writing style that drew me in from the first page. She drew believable characters and threw them into a situation where they each had to experience grief in their own way. I especially liked Anna who grieved for Matt, but didn't feel like she was allowed to express her grief. The emoptions in the book were well expressed and really pull the reader into the story.

My enchantment with the book started fading when Frankie comes up with the challenge of finding 20 boys over the summer. It seems innocent enough until Frankie starts referring to Anna's virginity as something that is holding her back from enjoying life. The rest of the book seems to focus a lot on this, and as well written as it was, I couldn't imagine recommending it to my teenage daughters.

What I found most disturbing was how lightly the whole subject was treated. As the girls sneak out of the house at night and Anna spends intimate time with her summer boyfriend (nothing graphic), I kept waiting for some sort of consequences. But there was nothing. Anna even says, "Somewhere beneath my newly tanned skin I know I should wait, that it should be special, that it should be with someone I can wake up with in the morning, tomorrow and always." These girls go through their summer lying to their parents and worse, even watching their friendship fall apart, and yet at the end of the book, all this is put behind them, the parents never find out, and the friends come back together as if nothing ever happened.

This book did reaffirm my belief that I need to read everything my kids read so I will know the kinds of things the world is preaching to them, and help them pick appropriate literature. I'm still a firm believer that a great book can be written for teenagers without having to bring sex into the picture. Even though I enjoyed the writing style and to some degree, liked the characters, I won't be recommending this book to anyone still in high school or younger.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Never a Dull Moment

This spring began with an exciting and inspirational trip to the LDStorymakers conference in Utah. I've gone three years now and I'm already looking forward to the next one. It can never come fast enough.

Then there was highland dancing. It started out with competition in May, where my daughter won the aggregate trophy for her competition level. Then there were two recitals. I love highland dancing and I'm looking forward to the Highland games in August where she'll compete. Bagpipes rock!

I also spent time helping my daughter with her first date. It's a sad commentary on our society when a girl's first date has to be one she plans. It was the Sadie Hawkins dance and she asked one of her best guy friends. This is his answer on the road in front of our house. This work of art took him about an hour after the sun went down. She was pretty impressed. I worked with her to plan a barbecue for her, her friends, and their dates. It was a great evening and they all had a great time.
Then we had soccer season. I think I only missed one of my son's games. Soccer definitely gets more exciting as the kids get older. Gone are the days when they sat in a corner of the field picking dandelions. Now they really get out there and work. Makes for an entertaining evening.
The ballet program was a new thing for us. There was a small recital last year, but this year was a full production in a real theatre. I was informed the dressing rooms even had lights around the mirrors. I'm not that knowledgeable about ballet, but I love how the lessons have made my daughter more graceful and aware of how she moves. The important thing is that she loves it, which is good. I can't imagine having to drag her to all the extra practices and photo sessions if she hated it.

My oldest daughter got a job in the city, which means I drive her in when she has to work until she gets her driver's licence. I hope that happens soon, but until then, I spend more time on the road than I used to. I'm going to start hanging out at the library or my MIL's house and do some writing while I wait for her shift to end.

Now I'm busy working on 22 costumes for a pioneer trek my kids are going on. The stake is planning several small vignettes the kids will stop to watch as they are on the trail. I have a work meeting planned for Thursday night, so hopefully we can get the majority of them finished then. After that, I have to sew pioneer clothing for my daughter to wear on the trek.

And then there is still the class reunion. Don't even ask how that is going. Everyone seems excited to come, but aren't really available to help. We all keep so busy these days, no one has a spare minute anywhere. Somehow it all comes together in the end. If anyone has any great ideas for reunion entertainment or games, I'd love to hear them.

So that has been the last few months at my house. I haven't done much writing, although I did finish editing a manuscript and submitted it, and I'm almost ready to submit a second one to a different publishing house. I've also done a lot of thinking about my newest character (a lot of plotting can be done while watching a soccer game). I think I've almost got her story figured out, now I just have to figure out where it begins. Once I get the time to actually do some real writing, the story will just flow. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston

"Shannon Tanner has it all a perfect family, a perfect job, and a perfect boyfriend. Or so she thinks. What Shannon doesn t know is that her boyfriend, Mark, is stealing money from her father and making millions doing it. When Shannon learns Mark s secret, he turns on her, and Shannon s life abruptly goes from perfect to perilous.

"In an effort to protect Shannon, the FBI assigns their only female agent to go undercover as her personal bodyguard. But when the agent is injured the day before the assignment, they turn to the next best thing: their top agent, Rick Holden in a dress.

"Life seems safe again for Shannon with Rick by her side and Mark apparently gone for good. Then Shannon gets word that her best friend has been kidnapped, and it becomes clear that Mark isn t going to stop any time soon. Shannon realizes the only way to save herself and her friend and stop Mark once and for all is by sending Rick, her only source of protection, away. Can Rick save Shannon before it s too late?" (from the back cover)

This book is a real departure from Tristi's other historical novels, but an exciting departure. Since we know who the bad guy is right from the beginning of the book, the suspense lies in figuring out what he will do next and how he'll do it. Unlike many supsense novels, this one had a nice touch of humor which I enjoyed.

My only complaint was the length. It was over too fast. I wish there had been more development of Shannon and Rick's relationship.

I'm hoping Tristi will continue to write suspense as I did enjoy Agents in Old Lace and will recommend it to my friends. It is a quick but fun read. Be sure to add it to your summer reading list.

You can read more about Tristi here or follow her blog here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Missing Pieces

Tonight was another meeting of my critique group. At our last meeting I read the beginning of a novel I had written some time ago. I loved the character in the story and liked the way the chapter progressed, but I didn't know where to take it from there. We did a lot of brainstorming and it got my mind going. Even with two weeks to work on it, I approached tonight's meeting with nothing.

The plot is still in pieces in my head. I've finally figured out all the angles of the back story and almost want to write that instead, but the real story is something else. My notebook is being filled with ideas and jotted down snippets. I love the character and am starting to get the vision of how her adventure will play out, but there are still some missing elements I need to work on.

Since I needed something to read I pulled out a short story I had been revising. It is completely different than anything else I've ever read to them. Their reaction left me a little baffled. The piece is a short-short story I originally wrote for a contest. It's about a funeral and is a little dark and uncomfortable. After I finished reading, there was complete silence at the table for several minutes. Of course, I began thinking they all hated it so much they didn't know how to break it to me gently.

I think what really happened is the subject of death was approached in such a manner as to make them all think about funerals they had been to, loved ones they've lost and the emotions that accompany those events. Once they started critiquing it, they consensus seemed to be that the piece was well written. The purpose of the piece was to make readers feel the emotion and in that, I think it was successful.

That's what writing is supposed to do. Reader's need to get caught up in the story and feel the emotion of the characters. They need to care about what happens and be able to relate it somehow to an experience or emotion they understand.

I think that is the problem I'm having with the other novel I'm working on. I haven't found the driving feeling in the story -- that element that makes a reader want to read just one more page. Once I get that figured out, the writing will flow. I can't wait.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Easterfield Give-Away

Anne Bradshaw has a book give-away on her blog. Author Anna Jones Buttimore will send one lucky person a copy of her book Easterfield.

"Easterfield is a historical romance set in Lancashire, England in 1850 and tells of the challenges that come into the life of a well-to-do family when they encounter one of the first LDS missionaries. Anna has an Honors Degree in English literature, and the story was inspired by her love of Jane Austen’s novels, as well as the work of the Bronte sisters and WM Thackeray, and her realization that these classic works were set around the time the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored. What, she wondered, would happen if an LDS element were introduced? Easterfield is the answer."

Visit Anne's blog for details of the contest. You have until Wednesday to enter.
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