Book review of Globejotting by Dave Fox

Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!)

Interestingly, I read half of this book before my big UK trip last year, and half of it afterwards.  My thoughts on travel journalling changed significantly after my trip.

Here are my thoughts from before my trip:

This is less of a book review, and more a practice at speed journalling.  I am familiar with this concept. I actually find it fairly easy to turn off my brain and just write.  We call it a brain-dump, although that sounds weird now that I’ve written it out. It’s also a technique used when doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  With NaNoWriMo, you’re trying to write 50,000 words in a month, and in order to do that, you have to turn off your inner editor. You can’t be constantly deleting and re-writing paragraphs or pages, because if you do, you’ll never write 50,000 words in a month.  While I find it easy to just blurt out the words in my head onto the page, turning off my inner editor is crazy hard. I really struggle with it. I can definitely see that it would speed up my journalling and allow me to get more of my day down on the page, thus allowing me to a) enjoy more of the day ‘in the moment’ and b) encourage me to keep up with my journalling and not fall behind.

He recommends that instead of writing about your day from start to finish, just choose 1-4 highlights from the day and write about those.  I actually love being able to see the teeny tiny details like what I ate on the plane, as it makes the experience seem more real to me, but I get what he’s saying.  When you write down the chronological facts, you do sometimes tend to leave out the emotions, thoughts and impressions. I know I do this. In my everyday journalling, if I write about something as it happens or immediately after, my writing is far more emotive.  I might write about how my husband being in the hospital with possible appendicitis makes me feel scared and lost, even while I understand that it’s a routine procedure and everything is going to be fine. I am reminded of how much he means to me, and how absolutely broken I’d be if anything happened to him.  I think about how much my happiness depends on him, and I worry about what kind of person I’d be if I lost him. I start thinking about the way relationships can work and whether co-dependency is a good thing or a bad thing. I start creating wild fantasies about how I’d react to grief and what we’d need to do to sell the house and how long I’d have to be off work.  And I’d write about how quiet the house is, and how I miss listen to his breathing as I fall asleep, and how tempting it is to find his aftershave and just smell it, like some creepy stalker person. But if I write about it after the fact, several days later or maybe weeks or months, I’m more factual. He went into the hospital at this time. I went and saw him, we chatted.  The op kept getting pushed back and he was hungry and sore. He nearly passed out in the bathroom at one point. The op went well, and I took him home the next day. Boring. And so different. I need those little details to make it seem real.

I’ve kind of gone off track here.  See, Dave isn’t recommending the latter version, the mere basic facts.  He actually wants something more like the former emotional rambling. Yet, my babble above kind of indicates the opposite.  I suppose I was doing that whole brain-dump thing, and not clarifying what I was writing as I was writing it.

So I guess I’m saying that if I catch those little details, like an actual quote from the day (maybe something he said when he was groggy on anaesthetic) or the crappy meal he got when they finally decided he wasn’t having the op that day but he’d already missed the proper meal, then it feels more real.  Like, those are the tiny details that you forget when you leave the journalling for a while and try to capture the experience at a later date. I remember the big things, like that he went for an op and I was scared. In a travel journalling context, I remember going to the Tower of London and the awe I felt at being surrounded by history. It’s the little details that fade, and so those are what I feel like I need to capture immediately.

I do see Dave’s point about capturing the highlights though.  It’s a good suggestion. I think it’s particularly important if you’re short on time.  I tend to do my journalling in the evening, before bed, when I travel. But if I was tired and wanting to get to sleep, I’d definitely consider just touching on the highlights instead of recapping the whole day.

Dave reminds us to take the advice that works for us, and leave what doesn’t, which is frankly the best advice ever.  I give the same advice to new parents. Take what works, discard what doesn’t. It’s different for everyone. So yep, must remember to practice what I preach.

He talks about choosing one interesting person each day of your trip and jotting down a character description.  I love this idea. Not sure if I’d be able to do it every day, but it sounds like such a fun thing to read back over.  He says to capture a quote they said that shows the way they talk, share their physical description, their mannerisms, their attitude and expressions.  I’m not very good at including this kind of detail in my journalling, so I like this. I actually have a terrible memory for faces. Like, I’d be a terrible witness.  I bet I couldn’t even describe my own or my husband’s face in sufficient detail for a police artist to draw them. I’d struggle to tell you what needed changing on the picture to make it more correct.  I just…I have a terrible visual memory. I think this is why I love photography. Words are fine, and I think I’d be fine with remembering a quote to write down at the end of the day (especially if I was actually aware of the need to note it), but physical descriptions are hard for me.  If you’ve read my short stories, you’ll know this too. One of the most common remarks that reviewers on Writing.com make when reading my stories is that I don’t describe characters or surroundings. Sometimes I’ll write a short story about a guy and a reviewer will comment on ‘her’ and I’ll realise I’ve put in so little description that the reader doesn’t even know if they’re male or female.  Actually, I have multiple stories like that, where the character is gender-neutral. It’s not deliberate though, it’s just a lack of description. Sometimes I use a name that gives it away, and that’s the only clue my reader has. Anyway, back to this book. I love this idea. It’s certainly not my strong point, and I’m going to find this a really tough challenge, but I’d like to give it a go. I think my husband and kids would have fun with it too. Like, I could choose a character from the day that we came across and ask them to give me details over dinner or while we’re on the train or in the car.  Could be a fun family exercise!

Another thing was the idea of a theme to tie multiple places or multiple days together.  Like, one day you could just write about foods you’ve tried on your travels. Or even more specifically, just desserts you’ve tried.  Or whatever. Like when I go back to Scotland I could do a journal entry about haggis, and the various ways we’ve tried it (including in a Cornish pasty!) and how the kids liked it (they’re fully expecting to, even though all they’ve tried to date is the canned stuff) and how I liked it (I did, but I really wasn’t expecting to), etc.  That could be a journal entry on its own, not specific to a particular day. I think these kinds of posts (or journal pages) are in addition to daily writing. For me, at least. But fun to do.

And here are my thoughts after my trip:

I did everything Dave told me not to do.

If you travel intending from the start to share your journals with others, you’re likely to hold back certain details.

I started off trying to write a recap of the day either that evening or the following day, and posting it to my blog.  It meant I didn’t turn off my inner editor and just write.  In fact, the opposite.  I was trying to create perfect blog posts on the go.  Ugh.  So stupid.

So guess what happened.  Go on, guess.  Right, I fell behind.  Then I gave up.

You know all those trips you’ve taken in the past where you wish you had kept a better journal? Well, it’s not too late. People assume if they don’t write their journals while they’re traveling, they can’t do it later. But journaling has no deadlines. There are no late fees, no penalties if you forget to file for an extension. You can write about a trip years after it’s finished.

So here I am with this major family holiday (first overseas trip for the kids, my sister got married, etc.) and I only have journal entries (or blog posts, call them what you will) for the first couple of days.  Dave says you can blog about a trip retrospectively, but that leaves me with one major issue – I don’t remember what we did every day.

Mediocre writing is better than no writing.

See, this is where Dave’s ‘highlights’ technique would be invaluable.  I should have jotted down a couple of bullet points from each day, and then I’d at least have those memory joggers.

What’s the biggest challenge in journaling about a trip that happened long ago? Remembering. Many people think post-journaling about a long-ago journey is impossible because so many details have left them. Speed journaling can bring those details back. Often there’s a snowball effect. One tiny memory triggers a bigger memory, and so on, until suddenly, your mind is fully immersed in your long-ago-and-far-away journey.

I think I can start by going back and looking at the photos and the tickets, etc., what we did on most days.  Perhaps even check the bank statements to see where we spent money.  That would give me a rough timeline.  The days we just spent at my sister’s house playing with her kids, those are probably lost.  But I think Dave’s right, if I start writing based on the photos and a brief timeline, I’ll get a good proportion of the trip written down.

So ultimately, bullet pointing a couple of highlights from each trip is my biggest takeaway from this book.  It’s so fucking obvious, I know, but I didn’t do it, and now some of the days on that trip are gone forever.  And that sucks.

Beyond that one tip though, I was constantly inspired by Dave as I read this book.  He made me realise that I have a unique view to share, even if I’m blogging about a place that has been often blogged about.

Each of us has a set of personal cultures, based on a wide array of factors:
• Where we live
• Where we have lived before
• Language(s)
• Accents or dialects
• Race
• Religion
• Gender
• Sexual orientation
• Education
• Career
• Body size
• Family size and structure
• Marital or relationship status
• Whether or not we have or want children
• Age
• Income level
• Political views or affiliations
• Medical conditions
• Clubs, hobbies, sports, or other activities we participate in

These are just a few of them. What are your subcultures? Using the preceding list of defining elements as a guide, make a list of your different subcultures. After you make your list, ask yourself the following questions:
• How many of your subcultures are cultures you were born into?
• How many are cultures you have adopted or stumbled upon later in life?
• Which ones are your core cultures – those you feel fully connected with – and which ones are cultures you understand to an extent, but are not fully immersed in?

Now, make a list of at least ten subcultures that do not make up a part of who you are. Among your list of subcultures that you don’t feel you belong in or understand, are there any you would like to experience? What could you do to make that happen? Are there others you choose to avoid? If so, why?

This was just one of many exercises Dave urged the reader to try, and I found this one particularly fascinating.  It gives you a greater awareness of the uniqueness of yourself, because your history, background and experiences are different to those of your spouse, your parents, your siblings and your children.. Not to mention all the other people visiting the same place as you.  And then it expands on that and urges you to consider subcultures that you don’t relate to, which can only lead to greater tolerance while travelling and that’s awesome.

So, here’s what I’m going to do now.  I’m going to make a timeline of my trip (bullet points!) based on the photos, tickets, etc.  Then I’m going to turn off my inner editor and just brain-dump as much as I can about each day.  I’m not going to forbid myself from overviews or themes (I usually do because I blog chronologically), and in fact I’m going to challenge myself to make theme headings and write as much as I can for each.  Then I’m going to see how much I can write about as many ‘characters’ from the trip as I can.  I know there was the guy from Struy Inn who did falconry with us, and also the falconer at Dunrobin Castle, both distinct (and different) characters.  There was the guide at Tomatin Distillery too.

I loved this book.  I found it inspiring and educational.  It’s definitely going to change how I journal on my next trip.  Bullet points for the win!  And bonus bullet points under characters.  Ha ha!  But seriously, there was so much in this book that I can’t capture it in a simple blog post.  Definitely read it for yourself.

 

Book review of North to Nara by Amanda Marin

North to Nara by Amanda Marin

I’m not entirely sure when this story is set, but it appears to be America in some dystopian future.

Neve is a fairly ordinary girl, although she is sweet and compassionate. Through a series of events, she ends up meeting her Sufferer. Every week, citizens like Neve go to the Center of Compassion and transfer their suffering – physical and emotional – to another person, a Sufferer. It’s an anonymous exchange, designed to leave the citizen healthier and happier. Most people, including Neve, never think about the effect of the Suffering on the Sufferer. If the citizen is happier, healthier, and lives longer, what happens to the Sufferer? Those are all questions that Neve starts asking when she identifies both her previous Sufferer and her current one.

Micah is a wonderful character, and the author does a fantastic job of showing us the goodness in his heart, and how perfectly suited he was to the role of Sufferer. He simply cannot stop himself from helping others, even at risk to himself.

The author has done a tremendous amount of work in world building and creating a history for the world in which Neve and Micah live. My only problem with the book is that this history and world-building is fed to the reader by telling, not showing. There are chunks of ‘info dumping’ right through the book. It seems unnecessary. We could infer the vast majority of the required information from the scenes, and a lot of the information comes out naturally in scenes like the one in the courtroom.

If it weren’t for the ‘telling’ or ‘info dumping’, whatever you want to call it, I’d have given the book four stars. Micah’s character is excellent, and the plot is solid.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Book review of Alluring Attraction by A F Zoelle

Alluring Attraction (Illicit Illusions #1)

Ryder and Hunter are in the same classes at university, but they don’t get along. They compete for the top grades and often get into heated debates that consume large portions of class time. One night Ryder reluctantly accompanies a friend to an exclusive brothel only to find that Hunter works there. He selects Hunter, to find out if it’s really him, and they both admit to being attracted to each other. They sleep together, and a few nights later, Ryder comes back for more. Hunter isn’t working at the brothel voluntarily, and Ryder’s visits are the highlight of his nights there. Until the brother owner, Hunter’s adoptive dad, realises that Ryder and Hunter are getting too close, and threatens them both. Meanwhile, Hunter has a new co-worker that he can’t resist.

This story is told in third person omniscient point of view, which would be fine, but the point of view changes from paragraph to paragraph, and sometimes even within a single paragraph. It took me a long time to be able to move past that. Aside from that, the writing style is very good, but I definitely think the book would be greatly improved if the author was able to maintain a single viewpoint for each chapter.

‘Ryder shrugged, not really caring one way or another. “I don’t know. I mean, I guess it could belong to a relative or something?” He sounded somewhat uncertain.’

 

I thought the characters were great, and I thought Hunter was particularly strong. It would be good to be able to see some balance in Hunter’s dad, because no one is totally evil, and yet we don’t see any balance there.

The author mentions multiple times that Hunter and Ryder are rivals, but we don’t really get to see that. It’s still being mentioned at the end of the book during sappy romantic or sexual times, when the characters are WELL past thinking of each others as rivals, and it feels a bit forced. Like the author can’t think of another word to use, because boyfriend and lover don’t quite fit.

‘Letting his thumb trail from the knuckles down to the tips of Ryder’s fingers, Hunter maintained eye contact as he slowly leaned forward and reverently placed a kiss on the back of his rival’s hand.’

Although Hunter works at a brothel, I was surprise by the steamy scenes between him and Cesare. The first one felt like it was moving the story along and letting the reader know more about Hunter and the situation he was in, but the more that Hunter and Cesare were together, the more Hunter seemed to be falling for Cesare. He thought Cesare was more satisfying in bed than Ryder. At that point I was like ‘Woah, where is this story going again?’ Actually, the title of the book, Alluring Attraction, seems more suited for Hunter and Cesare than Hunter and Ryder. But Cesare isn’t even mentioned in the blurb. I’m so confused!

‘Being with Ryder was its own form of incredible pleasure, but getting fucked by Cesare was physically gratifying all the way to the core of Hunter’s soul.’

The book finished without resolving anything. At this point, Hunter could end up with Ryder, he could end up with Cesare, or the three of them could decide to get together. Who knows?

I think the story has potential. If the point of view issue was fixed, it’d be an easy read. Aside from that one (major) issue, the writing style is great. The story has good pace and a perfect level of conflict to keep the reader engaged. The main characters are interesting and likeable, and it would be easy enough to add some depth to Christophe. I’m just not sure where Cesare fits into things. And ugh, cliffhangers. I gave the book two stars because I think it needs some more editing.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Book review of The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1)

Stella has a gift for numbers and does a fantastic job as an econometrician, predicting sales based on collected data of consumers, but she’s constantly turning down promotions.  Why?  Because they want to give her direct reports, and Stella doesn’t deal well with people.  That goes double for her personal life.  She’s tried dating, but can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys, and frankly, she finds kissing and sex distasteful.  Ugh, some guy putting his tongue in her mouth?  No, thank you.  She has a sensitivity to smells and touch and taste, and the men she’s dated don’t make any allowances for that.  But that’s probably her fault too because she won’t tell them why she’s struggling.  Because she doesn’t want their pity.  When people find out she’s autistic, they treat her differently, and she just wants to be normal.  Or does she?  Her mother has made her promise she’ll try on the personal relationship front, so Stella can’t give up even if she wants to.

After a ‘ex’ tells Stella she needs more practice in bed (!), Stella hires Michael, an escort, and asks him to teach her about sex so she can get better at it and therefore be more successful in the dating arena.  After a couple of false starts, a failed date and a spectacularly atrocious family dinner, Michael puts two and two together.  Once he understands what Stella needs and why, it’s much easier to work with her on the skills she wants to improve.  But the more he learns about her, the more he realises it’s going to be hard to walk away from her.

There was only one thing I didn’t like about this story.  Stella doesn’t tell Michael she’s autistic because she’s worried that it will change how he views her.  He figures it out, it doesn’t change how he feels about her (if anything, he feels more strongly for her), and yet because they don’t communicate on the subject for ages, it remains an issue preventing them from being together.  Similarly, Michael doesn’t tell Stella what forced him into the escort business because he’s worried it will change how she views her.  She figures it out, it doesn’t change how she feels about him (if anything, she feels more strongly for him) and yet because they don’t communicate on the subject for ages, it remains an issue preventing them from being together.  Ugh.  I hated that.  But it was still a solid four star read, and I really enjoyed it, so don’t let that stop you.

I thought Stella was really well written, and she felt natural.  Sometimes with characters who have ‘labels’ such as autism, it feels like the author gives them characteristics, habits or issues just to make them more stereotypical of whatever they’ve been labelled with.  Stella didn’t feel like that.  She felt more natural.  And she wasn’t ‘cured’ by Michael.  That was made evident in a few ways, including when Philip kissed her and when she was wearing the top with the open seams when talking to Janie.  Interestingly, after I finished reading the book, I found out the author is also on the autism spectrum, and wrote a lot of herself into Stella.

If you enjoy contemporary romance novels, I think you’ll enjoy this one.  It’s not gritty per se, nor is it clean and sweet, but it feels real.

Book review of The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout

The Problem with Forever

This book seriously tugs at your heart strings.  Have tissues handy.  Mallory and Rider share a very hard, troubled childhood, but it’s not the few flashbacks that get to you, it’s the mental and emotional scars they still bear, and how those affect them today.  It took me some time (as it took Mallory some time) to understand how deeply those scars affected Rider.  There is a lot of focus on Mallory, and the reader has a very clear understanding of her situation, whereas we only really see a surface view of Rider and on the surface he seems fine.  But he’s not.  And eventually Mallory realises that.  The use of the childhood book to illustrate the characters’ struggles was brilliant.  It helped me (who doesn’t have that history or those scars) to understand the way these troubled teens viewed the world and their place in it.  Some parts were predictable (the roles that Paige and Ainsley played, in particular) but there were enough curveballs (Jayden!) to keep you wanting to turn the page and find out what happened next.

The way that Mallory spoke did grate on me a little, and put me in mind of Bella from Twilight and all her teen angst, but it was pretty integral to the character and I can’t see how the author could have written it any differently, so I shouldn’t complain.

I thought Mallory’s speech was fantastic, and really pulled all the loose threads together, but then Rider went one better and gave us an incredible satisfying ending.  The epilogue was also satisfying – no perfect lives, but moving together towards a brighter future.

This book should come with trigger warnings, but otherwise is a must read if you like powerful YA romances.

Book review of Rebuilding Hope by Jessie G.

Rebuilding Hope (Kindred, #1)

This was an interesting take on a shifter romance.  I’m accustomed to such things as fated mates and alphas, but both those things were taken a step further in this book.

Crowley is not the alpha, he’s the Zenith.  That means two things – he rules over not just a group of shifters, but all shifters.  Of all breeds.  There are three Zeniths in the world, ruling over different areas.  Crowley rules over the Americas.  Below him there are the regular alphas who run the groups on a day-to-day basis.  Alphas are the strongest, as per usual.  Zeniths are born to the position, not in terms of bloodlines but in terms of abilities.  Secondly, Crowley can hear the thoughts and feel the emotions of all the shifters under his rule, and vice versa.  That’s what makes him the Zenith.  How that works in reality (can you say reality when it’s a fiction novel?!) wasn’t explained in great detail, but the reader was given sufficient information to get the gist of it and understand how it affects Crowley and how he uses it to affect the shifters under his care.

Then you’ve got mates.  Most shifters in this universe choose a mate, as humans do.  They may fall in love, but they’re not fated.  It turns out that Holden is Crowley’s fated mate, which for a Zenith is known as a Kindred.  No one has encountered a Kindred in so long that they were believed to be myths.

All of the above gave the novel a sense of uniqueness, and made it interesting and different to those that have come before it, which is good.

I found the story hard to follow at first, and I was super confused as to why Crowley asked Holden to join him at his table in the restaurant, although that was sort of explained later.  Their first encounter wasn’t shared with the reader.  From Crowley offering Holden a seat, we skip forward to them in bed together, and that baffled me.  Why didn’t we get to see their very first interaction with each other?

Once the story got going through, everything flowed quite smoothly after that.  I liked the fact that Crowley wasn’t arrogant, that he worried over whether he was doing a good job as Zenith, that he genuinely cared for his people, that he respected advice from those whom he trusted and respected, and yet that he was ruthless and hands-on when it came to necessary punishments.  In short, a good leader.  Holden’s bewilderment and bafflement over the whole shifter thing and also his role as Kindred worked well and felt natural, and yet he instinctively reacted to some things, reinforcing the idea that the relationship was ‘meant to be’.  I thought that was all handled really well.

Some of the secondary characters were quite interesting. The vampire king definitely caught my attention.  I suspect there are sequels to follow on the other two Zeniths as they hunt for their Kindreds. Four stars from me.

Book review of A Chosen Man by Jaime Reese

A Chosen Man by Jaime Reese

This is the 6th book in Jaime Reese’s Men of Halfway House series.

Wall is a secondary character we’ve encountered previously, who talks very little.  Like, ridiculously little.  So I was curious to see how Jaime would portray his story.

I loved Dylan.  He reminded me of Cole, a previous character.  Dylan has a powerful memory and can remember virtually everything he reads.  The author didn’t explicitly state that it was a photographic memory, but it obviously was.  He’s also a tech genius, specifically a hacker.  But then comes the similarity to Cole – the habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time because he doesn’t fully understand the nuances of normal, everyday social situations.

Both Dylan and Wall have had previous relationships that scarred and/or traumatised them, and led them to being wary of new relationships.  Built into this is the explanation of why Wall is so quiet, and how Dylan ended up in jail.

It wasn’t the guy, or his smile, or the sound of his voice. It was the promise of the dream. And, at the time, he probably would have accepted that from a three-legged iguana shifter if it had been able to speak that promise to him.

Like with Cole, the author doesn’t try and pretend he’s squeaky clean, an innocent man who did time for an honest mistake.  Dylan broke the law, but the author cleverly entices the reader to fall for him anyway.  I mean, for Wall to fall for him anyway.  Ahem.

I felt that the relationship between Wall and Dylan healed both men to a point where I felt like some of their stronger personality traits weren’t so obvious anymore.  Wall talked a lot more than I expected, and Dylan learned how to concentrate on his surroundings and what reactions were best in a given situation.  I was a little disappointed that they became more ‘normal’.  I didn’t feel like that happened with Cole, or even Adrian, who were strong characters that remained strong characters but found someone who loved them anyway.  Wall and Dylan changed each other.  For the better, sure, but…  Anyway, I dropped a star off my rating for that.

I added a star to my rating for the humour.

He imagined he would be crapping sugar cubes at any moment.

I kept laughing aloud as I read, and I love a book that can do that for me.

Wall didn’t know shit about computers, programming, and wouldn’t be able to find the dark web in a well-lit room.

The relationship between Wall and Dylan didn’t have enough tension or conflict to really keep my interest.  Their relationship was very sweet.  There was external conflict, which came from the men chasing Dylan.  The ‘escaping the bad guys’ sections of the book were easily my favourite, although Wall’s mum was very cool and I liked her a lot.  If there had been more conflict, I think the book would have been stronger.  As it was, I felt it was a three star read, taken to four stars with the humour.  If you want a sweet read that will make you smile, check it out.