Review: Jodi Picoult – The Storyteller

Late last year I was lucky enough to receive from Allen and Unwin, an advance copy of The Story Teller, by Jodi Picoult, to review.

I devoured the book in a day or two, it was brilliant.

Here’s my review:

Jodi Picoult never fails to deliver. In “The Storyteller” she succeeds, as always, in capturing the truth of the human condition, in delving deep in human emotions and laying them bare for all to see and feel alongside her characters. Sage is a young woman, hiding from the world so as not to face her scars – both emotional and physical, who befriends an elderly gentleman by the name of Josef, known for his good work in the community. He too has scars, terrible things in his past he has hidden for far too long, and now he wants only two things – death and forgiveness. Both of which he asks of Sage.

Through his request Sage learns of the terrible parts of her own history, and her grandmother’s past.

“What is the point in trying to put down on paper emotions that are too complex, too huge, too overwhelming to be confined by an alphabet… If you lived through it you know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it. And if you didn’t, you will never understand.”

Perhaps these words, spoken by Minka, grandmother of Sage and survivor of the holocaust, are true. No words can describe the true horror of such an experience, and yet Jodi’s words still manage to convey enough of a sense of what happened to have me reaching for the tissues, my children asking what was wrong.

The Storyteller is, as to be expected, a brilliant novel, I couldn’t put it down.

And now, I am really excited because my review was picked among many others as part of the promotion of the book! How exciting is that!! And even better – Allen and Unwin are giving readers the chance to win an advance copy on their Facebook page:

Good luck!! 😀

Inspiration via Nanowrimo – and our final winner!!

One of the things I absolutely love about National Novel Writing Month, are the Pep Talks. Emails from published authors, encouraging all the writers out there to keep on writing.

Today’s Pep Talk was from Nick Hornby. His words of encouragement need to be shared with the wider writing world. All of us who worry that our work is not good enough, who judge our work based on the ideas/rules/perceptions of others (which, lets face, it probably everyone!), need to read his email, and print it out, and stick it somewhere so we can remember what he says.

I will try to paraphrase Nick’s words here – but if you’d like to get the full impact of what he has to say, click here to check out the pep talk!

(And for those who don’t know – Nick wrote the books “About a Boy”, “High Fidelity” and “Fever Pitch” all of which have been turned into films!)

Every writer questions whether they are good enough – whether there is a stick by which we can measure the validity or otherwise of our work. But as Nick points out – art is subjective. Not everyone agrees that Shakespeare was a great author (and lets not get into a debate about whether he really did the writing, or simply stole someone else’s work). Some people say that a good novel takes between 2 and 7 years to write – but P G Wodehouse wrote 98 books in his 75 year career (and that’s not counting his plays).

Nick says:

“It’s a mess, the arts. Critics don’t agree with each other, readers don’t agree with critics. And real writers—if I may become definitive for a moment—change their minds about their own worth and talent somewhere between two and seven hundred times a day.

I’m trying to tell you that your own opinion of your work is entirely irrelevant, and so is the opinion of others. You have a job to do, and that job is to write a novel.”

I love that line “your own opinion of your work is entirely irrelevant, and so is the opinion of others”. Of course, I would think that if the larger percentage of “others” tell you your work is bad, perhaps you should listen to them – but then again if your work reaches even one person who – to paraphrase Lemony Snickett (see this pep talk) – takes it to heart and feels an effect in their life from your words – surely you have still achieved something as a writer, and that one thing is not to be sneered at.

Being a writer is far from easy. I send my stories out to different people – they come back with different ideas on what needs fixing. If the majority come back and say the same thing needs fixing, I fix it. But what if only half say there’s a problem with x,y,z…? What if only a few say “such and such is lacking”? I guess that is the point where personal preference must shine through – what do I like best? It is my work after all, and if I am sending it out into the world, it is important it has my mark, not the mark of others.

Today is the day I draw the last copy of The Secret Keeper. And I was going to try and do something original to draw the winner, but instead I will just flip a coin, as the only commentors we have had (who haven’t previously won!) have been Bec, and Laura Kay, (and anonymous – but as I can’t confirm your identity you’ll have to miss out this time!! Feel free to post again though! 🙂

And the winner is! Bec!!

Yay!! I’ll send you an email shortly Congratulations!! 😀

Writing from the Vacuum

Recently my father-in-law asked me about my writing. Specifically, how I write about things that I don’t know about. He said ‘obviously you don’t write from a vacuum, it has to come from somewhere’.

And I agreed. I talked about research, and how I could do a little research, and get an idea about something, but that someone who knew better would see the problems in my writing, would know I didn’t really know what I was writing about. (Unless of course I’d done heaps of research and then hopefully I would be able to express myself properly, in a way that would show that I did know my topic as best as I was able, without experiencing it myself).

But then I came away and thought about it. And I think, really, that my best writing comes when I am writing from a vacuum. Though I tend not to think of it in quite those terms.

For me, it’s being in the zone, totally focused, unaware of my surroundings, even the keyboard I”m typing on. Everything is the story. When I have those moments, I can easily write 2500 words in half an hour. Easily. Getting into that zone can be hard work though. Trying to get my children to pester my partner for drinks/snacks/general conversation while I’m writing can be extremely difficult. The other day my dearest daughter took my writing time as a personal offence and kept interrupting me to bring me artwork and cards with “I love you Mum”, and a paper bracelet she’d made just for me, just in case I was angry at her for something. It was so precious and I told her so, and of course reassured her that I loved her too, and was not angry at her, but I really just needed the time to write.

After an hour I had only written about 500 words. The next half hour wasn’t much better, but after forcing myself through the painful process of forcefully extracting words from my head, something clicked and suddenly I was there. In the next half hour I had written well over 1000 words.

I have seen research about this ‘zone’. A TED talk I do believe, and possibly a post on the Office of Letter’s and Light blog (actually I think the link to the TED talk was in the blog… ) If anyone knows what I’m talking about, I’d love the link again, because I cannot find it anywhere!

Anyway, the general gist of the talk was that creative people use a different part of their brain when creating, and when they are in the zone, other parts of their brain do shut down, and amazing things happen.

For me, the story writes itself. The characters do things I had never expected, they reveal aspects of themselves that were never in my outlines and planning. The story veers off track and reveals new exciting paths, paths that usually much better than the one I had planned to follow.

Are you creative in any way? Have you experienced this ‘zone’? Have any thoughts about it?

Feel free to share your thoughts! And don’t forget, I have two more copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post)

Our second winner is!!

Posting has been sporadic this last week, with a sick daughter earlier in the week, and now a sick husband, alongside two ‘sick’ cars – writing posts has been at the lower end of my priority list. Which isn’t to say I haven’t written any – it’s just that I saved it as a draft to return to later, and so far later hasn’t come… tomorrow, maybe.

Anyway without further delay, I’ll announce this weeks winner of The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton.

Looking over this weeks comments, I think I’ve only had two this week – Karen and Monica? If I’ve missed anyone let me know, and I’ll add your name twice to the next draw. With only two commentors this time, I thought I’d flip a coin…


Heads Karen, and tails Monica… and Karen it is! Congratulations. I’ll be in touch shortly so you can be reading your book in no time!!

Oh – and a Nano update? I’m still on track, thanks to a few wordy days of 2000+, sitting at 27,548.

DS however, has not bee so motivated, and without the assistance of my motivation, his word count sits at: 587. By the end of today he should be at 750 words… Hoping I can help him get back on track, and build up that word count. Maybe I need to bring back the incentive of chocolate…?

There are still two more copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post) And to help you out, I’ll try and have a few more posts to comment on!! 😀

And the winner is…

The first winner of a copy of The Secret Keeper by Kater Morton is:


Laura!! YAY!! I’ll send you an email shortly to let you know you’ve won and get some details from you!! 🙂

Don’t forget there are 3 more copies to give away, over the next 3 weeks. Keep commenting!! 😀

And for those of you who’ve only just stumbled across the blog – check out this post to see the great book that’s up for grabs!!

Six Sentence Sunday # 5 – Nano!!

Oops! Running a bit late for Six Sentence Sunday today!

Today I thought I would show you the first six sentences of my Nano novel. It’s a sequel to the novella I wrote in June for Camp Nano.

A stabbing pain shot down both legs, and I collapsed back to the cold, damp sand. I gritted my teeth, my son did not need to see his mother in pain, though he must’ve sensed it for he dragged himself over to me, his tail leaving an imprint in the sand. My sweet boy, put a pudgy arm around my shoulders, his chubby face tight with concern. Though I did not mean to, I threw him off as another bolt shot up my spine.

“No.” A moan escaped my lips, as wave after wave of agony swept over my body.

I’ll post more snippets of my story over the coming weeks. Enjoy! 😀

(And incase you’re wondering how the writing is going – we went away camping for the weekend, and DS missed out on doing today’s writing, though he did manage 53 words yesterday. I managed 1000 words yesterday, and am just starting today’s writing now, at 9:30pm… I only need about 900 words today to get back on track, as I wrote so much on Day 1, and a little extra on Day 2. Wish me luck!!) 😀

Don’t forget, I have four copies of The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton to give away this month, all you have to do to get your name in the draw is comment on any post! :D (For more info check out this post)

Book Giveaway!! – Kate Morton “The Secret Keeper”


In a bucolic English summer at the end of the 1960s, a young girl witnesses a shocking crime. Fifty years later, she sets out to find out the truth, uncovering layers of mystery and deception. Moving from London during the Blitz to the present day, this is classic Kate Morton: a compulsively-readable, entrancing mystery with a long held secret to be uncovered at its heart.

1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.
2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds – Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy – who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatefully entwined.

Shifting between the 1930s, the 1960s and the present, The Secret Keeper is a spellbinding story of mysteries and secrets, theatre and thievery, murder and enduring love.

Doesn’t it sound fascinating!!

The Secret Keeper is published by Allen & Unwin and is due for release in Australia and New Zealand in November, but is already available in the UK and US.

And click the link below to see Kate Morton’s take on finishing The Secret Keeper!


For a chance to win one of 4 copies of this brilliant book, be sure to comment on my blog over the coming weeks.  During the next month I’ll be sharing my experiences as I take part in my 5th Nanowrimo, (my 7th if you count Camp Nano!!), novelling alongside my son who is taking part in the Nanowrimo Young Writer’s Program. I’ll be giving away 1 book each week to a random commenter from that week. So come say hello, and tell me all about your own writing and/or reading experiences.