Book Reviews Reading

Review: Shadow of the Mountain by Anna Mackenzie

A photo of the book Shadow of the Mountain by Anna Mackenzie

What is it?

Shadow of the Mountain by Anna Mackenzie

First published 2008

A New Zealand, young adult contemporary novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

Geneva’s world has been blown apart by loss. Maybe that’s why her decisions are not always the sharpest. One thing she knows: there’s no way back to the person she once was.

When Angus appears in her orbit it seems an omen that things are changing — but life is never that simple.

In trying to find a way forward, Geneva risks her friendships, risks repeating the errors of the past, even risks her life.
But maybe there’s no other way to find the person she can be.

What I thought

This was another NZ book I found by browsing the library shelves and choosing something I’d normally pass up otherwise. To be perfectly honest, the writing wasn’t quite there for me, but I did enjoy the story.

Geneva’s family is dealing with grief, and it has taken its toll, and I thought their pain and sense of loss came across really well on the page. I liked Angus and Geneva’s relationship with him, which wasn’t always straight forward. I loved how the setting was really important to the story, and the New Zealandness of it really came through. And it had a satisfying ending, with hope for the future.

Book Reviews Reading

Review: Alex by Tessa Duder

A photo of the book Alex by Tessa Duder

What is it?

Alex by Tessa Duder

First published 1987

A New Zealand, young adult (historical?) novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

Alexandra Archer is swimming to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rome. In the past year she has fallen in love and knows how it feels to lose.

Alex faces intense competition and will have to swim the race of her life to achieve her dream.

What I thought

I remember I must’ve been about 12 when a girl who I wouldn’t exactly call a friend was reading Alex. I know I was in the 10 to 12 range, because we were in the hall I went to for Girl Guides. I can see the scene so clearly. A book about a girl swimmer? Ugh, no thanks.

12 year old me was so wrong.

Actually, no. I don’t think 12 year old me would’ve liked this book. It didn’t have teenage brothers solving mysteries, or swords and sorcery, or a man who collected pigs. But 38 year old me did.

Crap, I’m old.

But I loved Alex (the character). She’s strong and driven and vulnerable. I loved how the story is split between chapters showing her thoughts during her final race and the lead-up to it. The writing style almost lost me in parts, because it’s very tell-y. Alex rambles on about her life, and sometimes I thought I’d actually like to see some of this stuff instead of just being told about it. But her narration is so charming, it didn’t turn me off the book.

I’m glad I finally read it, and I’d highly recommend it. Alex (the book) is a classic piece of New Zealand literature, and Alex (the character) is still relevant today.

Writing

A new draft of the rugby book

So, last year, I wrote the first draft of a novel about a teenage rugby player. Then it languished for a while, because I realised I was telling the wrong story and I couldn’t figure out what the right one was.

Well, guess what? It’s rugby season again. What better time to have a spectacular idea and write a new version?

I figured out the new approach and this draft just poured out of me. I really like it. I like the character’s arc, and I particularly like the way his relationship with his mother has changed. (She was such a clichéd villain in the old version. She’s much more complicated now.)

I’ve also changed the working title. But that’s a secret for now. 😛

But for interest’s sake. Here are my stats. I peaked at 3,605 words in a day. And that was when the end was in sight, so I just kept pushing on.

I know 42K isn’t enough for a novel, but it’s great for a start. I have a handful of scenes I need to pull from the old version and re-use, and then I can start expanding this first-draft hoariness into something wonderful.

Graph showing daily wordcount for the rugby book plus a running total