Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One of These Things is Not Like The Other: Heterochromia and You

(Warning – High Snark Level)
Dear check out person at the grocery store / random mom at my kid’s school / anyone who doesn’t know me that well,
I’m very impressed that you know the word heterochromia. It’s a big word that means two different colored eyes and it applies to me. Until recently, I think the only people who knew that word were people who have it and people who study it for whatever reason.
It’s like everyone in the world is experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon at once, where you learn something new and then see it everywhere, only now it’s with my eyes and a fancy scientific name that makes you feel like you know something that others don’t. They do.
But it’s not really that you know the word and want to make sure others know that you know it, it’s the follow up comments that are questionable, if not insulting.
Would you like it if someone said to you, “Oh, my dog has eyes like yours.” Probably not. Also, I am not blind in one eye, and yes, I know that David Bowie / Kate Bosworth / other random celebrity I don’t care about also has different colored eyes. How interesting!
Thank you for suggesting that I could wear contacts to make my eyes the same. I appreciate your celebration of homogeny. Well done.
My eyes are not weird, they are just different. I wish I had super powers or magic, but my eyes are not a sign of a witch. They are pretty. I like them.
Truthfully, I like it when you point out that I’m different. We can just leave at that can’t we? Just say, “Cool!” and move on. If you don’t think it’s cool, there’s no need to share. Kthx.
Otherwise, I’ll go back to my old standbys:
You: Your eyes are two different colors. I’ve seen cats like that.
Me: *touches face* What? Are you serious? Call a doctor!
You: You have heterochromia!
Me: Why yes, I sure do.
You: Can you see out of both eyes?
Me: Yes, for now, but it’s highly contagious. Be careful. *sneezes*
In summation, let’s point out our differences as compliments and be careful where we go from there. M’kay?
Best wishes,
P.S. The eye color on my driver’s license is blue. Now we have that one out of the way, too. Yay.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What to Read After The Hunger Games

[*Beginning of THG spoilers]

So, you’ve read The Hunger Games trilogy. You’ve journeyed with Katniss through two arenas, several rebellions, and a war. You’ve seen the love triangle play out to the end, you’ve mourned the tragic deaths of some of your favorite characters, and now you can sleep knowing that there are survivors who are safe, if not entirely sound.

[*End of THG spoilers]

The big question is: What now?

What can possibly take the place of The Hunger Games trilogy on your bookshelf?

The answer is simple: Nothing.

There is no trilogy like The Hunger Games, and trying to find a replacement would be like Cinna deciding to stop being fabulous. It won’t happen.

But there is hope! I’ve had lots of questions from friends asking me what to read next, and I can tell you with great enthusiasm that The Hunger Games might be the lamb stew, but there are lots of other tasty meals on the menu.   

People like The Hunger Games for many different reasons, and I have categorized my suggestions based on several endearing qualities of the books. If I didn’t address why you liked the books, please leave me a comment and I’ll get you a recommendation.

So, if you liked The Hunger Games (THG), consider reading the following books. I’d love to know what you think once you’ve read them, and I hope you have recommendations to add!

Category: OMG Please Read This Book

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

This book came out in 1985, but it is as relevant and poignant today as it was when it was winning awards almost 30 years ago.

I’ve read that this book is mandatory for training in the Marine Corps, and I can see why. In this book, the Capitol in THG is instead an international space fleet with a school that trains children to become soldiers who will defeat the “Buggers”, or aliens who are set to invade Earth. Ender Wiggin is taken from earth at a young age to attend the Battle School.  Through a series of training games, Ender shows his promise as a tactician in increasingly difficult scenarios. Through it all, Ender struggles with rage and violence, empathy, self-definition, and humanity.

This book blew my mind. If you see the ending coming, you are my hero because I was shocked, and I can usually predict these things.

Favorite quote: “There is no teacher but the enemy.”

The movie based on this book is in production now and will be released next November. I encourage you to #readitfirst !

Also, The Giver by Lois Lowry has a similar feel and is a very good book.

Category: Strong female lead, survival, figuring stuff out

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larrson

There has been almost as much hype about this mystery thriller series and the movies as THG, and both the books and the films live up to their fame. The journey of Lizbeth and Mikael and the mysteries they solve lead to fist pumping, hair pulling, horror-stricken moments. Wading through the many names and thick detail can be tough, and the story is much darker than THG, but the plot and the characters are worth it. 

Other recommendations in this category:
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Category: Political intrigue and regional struggles

The Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin

You may think they’re just crazy fantasy books that have evolved in to a wildly successful HBO series, but I’m telling you, these books are about people; good people and the very worst types of people, all of them flawed and endearing. The complicated stories are engaging, the writing is beautiful, the characters are lovable and contemptible, and the fantasy overlays political, social, and emotional realism. Like the Dragon Tattoo series, these books are heavier on details and names than THG, but they are just as enthralling.

Other recommendations in this category:
Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld

Category: Young Adult Dystopia Series   

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner

This seems to be the go-to recommendation for what to read after THG. I liked the first book, but the series did not engage me as much as some other books on the list. Still, it’s worth noting that these books may be a good next read.

Other recommendations in this category:
Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
The Matched series by Allie Condie
Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver  
Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

Category: Young Adult Fantasy

The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer

What are you doing? Just read them already. You know you want to.

There are SO many more books I hope you read, but these made the short list for those of us missing The Hunger Games books. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

It makes my day when I hear from you on Facebook, Twitter, email, or in comments below.

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Hunger Games Soundtrack: Predictions

Welcome to the Soundtrack Arena, Hunger Games Fans!

You have, by now, listened to the Hunger Games soundtrack. Sadly only a few of these songs will likely be in the actual film, but if they survive the reaping, I can imagine when we’ll hear them.  

So picture this …

The ground rumbles beneath you as you are raised on your circular arena platform.

You are ready. You have heard the songs. So what’s your strategy? Where do the songs fit in the film?

Are you going to run with the Cornucopia of the thoughts below, or flee to the woods with your own rebellious opinions?

Here are my predictions and the IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) about where these songs should appear in the movie, with some lyrics.

“Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire
IMHO: Train ride and entrance to the Capitol

“And when he saw her raised for the slaughter
Abraham’s daughter raised her bow
How darest you, child, defy your father
You better let young Isaac go.”

“Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” by The Secret Sisters
IMHO: After Rue dies, in the trees when Katniss reminds herself why she’s in the game and gets some news that changes things

“Today I’ve cried a many tear, and pain is in my heart,
Around me lies a somber scene, I don’t know where to start,
But I feel warmth on my skin, the stars have all aligned
The wind has blown, but now I know, that tomorrow will be kinder.”

“Nothing to Remember” by Neko Case, a poignantly beautiful song about Katniss and her relationship with Gale, and herself
IMHO: Katniss and Gale hunting

“I don’t recall, fight or flight setting in …”

“There is nothing to remember.”

“I owe you nothing, that’s all I’ve got for you.
You borrow nothing, that’s what you expect of me… ”

“All I own, all I own, the strides I spend to the finish line …
I’ll give you those.”

“I’m ashamed that I’m barely human,
And I’m ashamed I don’t have a heart you can break,
I’m just action,
And other times reaction.
All I own, All I own, and the strides I spend to the finish line
All I own, All I own, and the strides I spend to the finish line
I’ll give you those,
Just don’t make me go home
Give me something to remember … “

“Safe & Sound” by Taylor Swift (feat. The Civil Wars)
IMHO: Rue’s death, but I hope Katniss actually sings a song to Rue. I’m crying already!

“Just close your eyes,
The sun is going down
You’ll be all right
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I’ll be safe and sound.”

“The Ruler and the Killer” by Kid Cudi
IMHO: During the training sessions, but it could be when the Careers (Cato) are hunting in the arena

“When I talk you should listen,
You talk you say nothing okay,
You the ruler and killer baby.”

“Dark Days” by the Punch Brothers
IMHO: The goodbye scene with Katniss’s mom and Prim. It might be the train ride from District 12, but it’s perfect for that awful (and wonderful) scene when Katniss says goodbye

“We don’t have to reap the fear they sow…”

“Our love will see us through these
Dark dark days, sister,
Till it lights the way back home
Sister hide our love away.
Mother listen to my heart.
Just as one beat ends another starts,
You can hear no matter where you are.”

“One Engine” The Decemberists
IMHO: No clue, maybe getting on the train in District 12?

“Hold on, they’re breaking they’re bonds.”
“Bear down, they’ll run you aground
We all must suffer awhile in a way.”
(I think the melody works more than the lyrics here.)

“Daughter’s Lament” by The Carolina Chocolate Drops
IMHO: A nightmare scene when she’s thinking about finding out about her dad dying in the mines

“Up spoke up spoke up mockingjay up from a willow tree saying you had a father in the mines whose gone this day from thee.
Whose gone this day from thee.”

“Kingdom Come” by The Civil Wars
IMHO: Katniss at the beginning of the games running from the Cornucopia, or Katniss leaving the Peeta cave

“Run, run, run away.”
“Don’t you fret my dear,
It will all be over soon,
I’ll be waiting here, for you.”

“Take the Heartland” by Glen Handsard
IMHO: The Cornucopia when Katniss needs Peeta’s medicine or (Yes Please!) when Katniss blows up the Career’s supplies

“Should I kill you with my sword, yeah?
Or should I kill you with this word?”

“Come away to the Water” by Maroon 5 (feat. Rozzi Crane)
IMHO: Katniss and Peeta in the cave, or Katniss looking for Peeta. The lamb and slaughter lyric is so poignant.  She makes herself so weak by aligning with him, but the Gamemakers made it so. This song shows how manipulative that was.

“Come away little lost come away to the water
to the ones that are only waiting for you
Come away little lost come away to the water
Away from the life that you always knew
We are calling to you
Come away little light come away through the darkness
In the shade of the night we’ll come looking for you
Come away little light, come away to the darkness
To the ones appointed to see it through
“We are calling for you …”
“We are calling for you …”
“Come away little light come away to the darkness, in the shade of the night We’ll be looking for you …
We are coming for you
Come away little lamb come away to the water
Give yourself so we might live anew
Come away little lamb come away to the slaughter
To the ones appointed to see this through
We are coming for you
We are coming for you
Come away little lamb come away to the water
To the arms that are waiting only for you
Come away little lamb come away to the slaughter
To the ones appointed to see this through
We are coming for you
We are coming for you

“Run Daddy Run” Miranda Lambert (feat. The Pistol Annies)
IMHO: Another dark day for Katniss. She’s probably thinking about her dad dying, which could coincide with her remembering that Peeta saved her with the bread. I’m also thinking this could be Katniss and Peeta waiting for Cato to come for them at the end of the games.

“Daddy can you hear
The devil drawing near
Like a bullet from a gun
Run daddy run
Mamma’s been crying in the kitchen
Sister’s been afraid of the dark
I’ve been gathering the pieces
Of all these shattered hearts.”

“Rules” by Jame Dee
IMHO: The train ride after

“You say you know love, but you are just reflecting words you hear,
No iron in your veins could give you any sense of pain or fear
It’s just another lie, it’s just another calculation
And when the power’s out, we’re just another old sensation

“This boy keeps me alive, but what is it that runs through you?
Electricity and wires dictating everything we do
You tell me that you hear me
And all your memories are real
But now do I know you, don’t just feel what you’ve been told to feel
We run around the rules …

“Eyes Open” by Taylor Swift
IMHO: Prep teams and the preparation for the parade, or this would be good for end credits as a foreshadowing for the next movie

“Everybody’s waiting
For you to break down
Everybody’s waiting
To see the fallout
Even when you’re sleeping,
Keep you’re eyes, open.

“Lover is Childlike” by The Low Anthem
IMHO: The cave with Katniss and Peeta

“While the band plays the Anthem, she defers that God hates flags.”  

“Just a Game” by Birdy. Okay, first, you need to hear the song from Donny Darko (originally sung by Tears for Fears) because it’s definitely inspired by that song. Also, this song got me. It’s so Katniss-Peeta. Brilliant. As far as when in the movie this happens?
IMHO: I think this is from Peeta’s AND Katniss’s perspective. So, this might be after the interviews on the rooftop, and it could be the cave, but my gut tells me it’s on the train or at the very end after the interviews.

“We’re all just pieces, in their games.”

My brief thoughts overall: I was pleasantly surprised by how District 12 / North Carolina / Katnissy the soundtrack felt, though I was disappointed we didn’t get a track that was the actual score of the movie.

So what do you think about if and when you think these songs will be used in the film?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Girl Scouts Turn 100

Imagine if you will, these lovely ladies (and others) shouting the following cheer at the Girl Scout Day Camp morning flag ceremony. 

Yes, it was epic. And for some reason, not embarrassing. It was the feeling of acceptance, of kindness, and of being around one's own. How often have you felt like that in your life? In my experience, it’s a rarity.

A lot of people think being a Girl Scout means that you’re a sugar hawker of the highest grade. I'm here to tell you that it’s not just about cookies, although that part was a big learning experience, too. Thin Mints don’t just taste like God’s answer to cookies to me; they taste like “character-building” sales pitches to reluctant neighbors in the dead of winter. They taste like pavement-pounding work. They taste like accomplishment, rewards, and friendship. Also mint. And chocolate.

March 12th, 2012 marked the centennial anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America. One hundred years ago Juliet Gordon Low founded an organization that has grown to over 3.2 million members, bringing together women in 90 different countries. I count myself among the 60 million living alumnae in the U.S.

The focus of the organization 100 years ago was the same as it is today: To give girls an opportunity to grow as individuals, to make a difference in their community through volunteerism, and to value the world around them. Early girl scouts hiked, played sports, and camped. They could tell time by the stars and they knew first aid.

Modern girl scouts learn those things, too, but the organization has changed with the cultural and societal needs of today’s young women. The Girl Scouts of today research and educate on political involvement, eating disorders, societal pressures, and more. It’s a female-centric organization that gives voice to women everywhere. A hundred years ago, girls were disenfranchised second-class citizens relegated to their designated social sphere. A hundred years later, girls have a lot more power and many more opportunities, but an organization that promotes their education and social, physical, and mental well-being is more important than ever.

As my friends and I grew into full-fledged teenagers, things changed a bit. It wasn’t cool to be a Girl Scout, and that mattered more than before. We had different groups and different interests, but secret codes (meetings were referred to as O.G.i.G.S for Oh God it’s Girl Scouts), and shared values and experiences held us together.

We also had the most amazing leadership *. Adolescence is a time when it’s beyond normal for children to scorn every move their parents make, every thought. But the women who mentored us were leaders in the community, or going to school to give their families more opportunities, or such incredibly devoted parents that they would spend their weekends camping in the rain trying to salvage the Bunsen burner dinner. 

I had so many opportunities through Girl Scouts. I traveled internationally, met several local and state dignitaries, earned awards, and learned things that are still with me today.

I can’t tell the time by the stars like those early Girl Scouts, but I can always find north and I know how to stay un-lost and alive in the woods. I don’t volunteer as much as I used to, but the importance of being an asset to my community is still deeply ingrained. I still love to camp, and I make every effort to be responsible to the earth and the world around me.

When I was 11 years old, I took my first long trip with the Girl Scouts for the 75th anniversary celebration in Washington D.C. At the time, I wondered how I would celebrate the 100th. Knowing I would be an old lady of 36, I wondered if I would be taking a little troop of me-like people to a Centennial Jubilee. I didn’t do that, but twenty-five years later, I’m a proud alumna, and I still live by the Girl Scout law.

The Girl Scout Promise
On my honor, I will try:
 To serve God and my country,
 To help people at all times,
 And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
The Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be 
honest and fair, friendly and helpful, 
considerate and caring,
 courageous and strong, and 
responsible for what I say and do,
 and to 
respect myself and others, 
respect authority,
 use resources wisely, 
make the world a better place, and 
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Check out the Girl Scouts of America here.

*I’m not sucking up, Mom and Bev, although you are pretty great.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My 2011 in Books

We’ve established that I am a prolific reader. This blog is mostly about the books I’ve read, so my plan was to write a year-end post about the very best books I experienced in 2011. In reviewing my on-line library, however, I realized that I wanted to comment on more than just the great books, I wanted to share my thoughts on the books that weren’t so great, too. 

I read 76 books in 2011. That’s not including the books I reread because I love them. I can’t go a year without reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Wuthering Heights, Graceling and Fire, selected books from the Harry Potter series, and of course the Twilight Saga.

I know. That’s a lot of books. I am a sucker for a free or $99 Kindle ebook and I get sucked into series even if the books are not that great. I’ll be the first to admit my booklist in 2011 was not the most discerning, but there was some fiction that blew my mind, elevated my love of reading, and inspired me to continue to write.

Here is a simple synopsis of books that I loved, books that were okay, and books I wish I had never read.

Books that blew my mind:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Books I loved:

Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Last Little Blue Envelope and The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Sweethearts by Sarah Zarr
Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James
Forever by Maggie Steifvater
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
The Winter Sea by Susan Kearsley

Books I liked a lot:

How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski, and E. Lockart
Austenland by Shannon Hale
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
The House at Riverton and The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Between the Lines, Where You Are, and Good For You by Tammara Webber
A Great and Terrible Beauty, The Sweet Far Thing, and Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Books that were okay:

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
The Girl Who Was On Fire by various authors
Evermore by Alyson Noel
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
The Chosen Soul and The Game by Heather Kilough-Walden
Ashes by Ilsa Bick
Eternal Eden by Nicole Williams
So Over You by Gwen Hayes
Breathless by Heather C. Hudak
The Trouble with Kings and A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward
Camille by Tess Oliver
The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
Incarceron by Katherine Fisher

Books that I wish I hadn’t read:

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Immortal by Lauren Burd
Sam I Am by Heather Killough-Walden
The entire House of Night Series by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast
Passion by Lauren Kate
The Wicked Woods by Kailin Gow

So there you have it. My 2011 reading list. There are several books I’m excited to read in 2012. I’ll do a post on that soon.

Until then, happy reading!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Breaking Dawn Soundtrack Preview - My predictions on when we'll hear the songs in the movie

Okay, so I’m a total SWIMFAN when it comes to Twilight. I love the books and the movies of course, but the soundtracks are on constant repeat in my house. With the release of each Twilight soundtrack, we are treated to a preview of the tone of the movie, and the Breaking Dawn soundtrack gives us an exciting glimpse at what we can expect.  
Before New Moon came out, I listened to the soundtrack and my heart almost exploded when I heard “Possibility” by Lykke Li. I knew we would hear this tune when Bella was devastated. It was perfect. My favorite song on that soundtrack, though, is “All I Believe In,” by The Magic Numbers & Amadou & Mariam. It’s a Jacob love song, and I hoped to hear that song when he and Bella became friends. I got my wish. The New Moon soundtrack is diverse, and it’s mostly a blend between rock and roll and ethereal alternative. It gave us a preview of the tone of the movie, which was a blend between hard core heartbreak, building friendship, and unimaginable danger.
The Eclipse soundtrack is also a mix, blending upbeat rock music that works for the struggles in the movie and romantic tunes for more intimate scenes. One of my favorites on this album is “My Love” by Sia, which is perfect for the proposal scene.  The best aspect of the music in Eclipse though, is how the musical director used the song “All Yours” by Metric as the instrumental score for the movie. It made the last scene in the meadow so poignant.
Now I’m listening to the Breaking Dawn Part I soundtrack and it’s beautiful, just like the movie will be. We know that we are going to see the wedding, the honeymoon, the pregnancy, and the birth. It’s going to be crazy, emotional, and beautiful, and the soundtrack sets the tone for that ride. There are few rock and roll songs on the soundtrack because there will be few rock and roll moments in the movie.
I always hope for some Muse, Paramore, and of course, R. Pattz!, but there’s always BD2. Still, the music on this soundtrack is by far my favorite of any of the movies.
So, here are my predictions for when we will hear the songs in the movie.  
1. The Joy Formidable, "Endtapes" – This feels like a Jacob song. We’ll hear this song either when he runs away after getting the invitation, or when he’s about to kill Edward because Bella’s pregnant and dying.
2. Angus & Julia Stone, "Love Will Take You"- This could be honeymoon, but I’m thinking we’ll hear it when Bella’s dying from the pregnancy and Edward is worried.
3. Bruno Mars, "It Will Rain"- I don’t think this will be in the movie. I bet it’s the first song we hear when the credits roll.
4. Sleeping At Last, "Turning Page"- Yay! There’s an instrumental to this one, too, so I hope the music director uses this as the score throughout the movie. If they use this song like they used “All Yours” in Eclipse, it will be the last song we hear before the credits roll, but I bet we first hear this song on Isle Esme wedding, you know, “after.”
5. The Features, "From Now On"­- Fun song. This could be the song they use on the boat on the way to Isle Esme.
6. Christina Perri, "A Thousand Years"­- Bella walking down the aisle. OMG I’m crying already.
7. Theophilus London, "Neighbors"- No clue about this one. End credits maybe?
8. The Belle Brigade, "I Didn't Mean It"- This one feels Jacob-y, too. It’s either Jacob angry at Bella for keeping the baby or dealing with Sam’s pack.
9. Noisettes, "Sister Rosetta (2011 Version)" – This is a tough one. I’m thinking the Cullen’s protecting their land or something with the wolves.
10. Cider Sky, "Northern Lights" – Picture Bella wrapping herself in a towel and running out on the beach on Isle Esme. It works right?
11. Iron & Wine, "Flightless Bird, American Mouth (Wedding Version)" – Bella and Edward’s first dance at the wedding. I love that they reworked this song for this movie!
12. Imperial Mammoth, "Requiem On Water" – Maybe it’s the title, but this could be the swim on Isle Esme? I’m thinking it’s Bella sick when she’s sure she’s going to make it.
13. Aqualung & Lucy Schwartz, "Cold" – Birth scene. Creepy.
14. Mia Maestro, "Llovera" – This song is sung by the actress who plays Carmen, but I don’t think they’ll have this as part of the wedding. I’m thinking honeymoon because it’s in Spanish. Maybe when they’re swimming or dancing in Rio?
15. Carter Burwell, "Love Death Birth" – OMG, again, I love that they bring back the score from the first movie. Yay! This will be used as a musical score throughout the movie, obviously. Wolves running, tender moments, etc.

16. Hard-Fi, “Like a Drug” – Poor Jacob. This will be him frustrated at Bella and not being able to stay away. Also, can I say I almost had a Footloose moment when I heard this song?!

17. Turning Page (Instrumental), Sleeping at Last – Like I said before, I hope this is the musical score throughout the movie.

18. Eclipse (All Yours), Kevin Teasley – I love that they are bringing back the score from Eclipse. I have no idea how this will be used, but I’m guessing some part of the wedding scene.

What do you think?

I can’t wait until November 8th when I can own all of these songs!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering ...

I was teaching on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. It was a normal morning, until it wasn’t.

In the teacher’s lounge early in the a.m., I heard the first of it. By the time school started, both towers in New York and the Pentagon had been hit, Flight 93 had crashed, the South Tower had fallen, and the North Tower had started to collapse.

My fifteen-year-old students were, in a word, confused. There was high emotion, anger, but mostly, there was disbelief. Think about how you felt that morning, waking up to terror.

We turned on the TV but the images were unreal. Far away.

Early in the morning the news was reporting that Al Qaeda was responsible. I could explain the word “terrorist,” for what it meant at the time. My students could study maps and internet pages for what “facts” we could find. I explained about the conflict of the Middle East in recent history, from the 1960’s on, something we hadn’t covered in World History at the start of school.

And then afterward, there were so many questions about who we should hate, and who the enemy was. Were the Arabs the enemy? Were the Muslims? What was the difference? I could explain that, at least.

Sitting in class with students in the East Bay Area, it was easy to point out that there was no race or religion that was to blame. These were our classmates, our friends. Our people.

It’s easier when diversity is right in front of you. It must be harder when your world is smaller, because that night, when I went home and watched TV, I saw fear. I saw people blaming Arabs for the attack. I heard that Muslims, one and all, were out to get us.

Being a history lover and, you know, a human, I was alarmed. Similar sentiments caused the Japanese internment in the 1940s, a great stain on the canvas of American history. On a more extreme and terrifying level, I had read similar justifications for The Holocaust.

So I talked about it with my friends, and my family, and my students. Some listened, others didn’t, but it brought me back, as questions always do, to history. In the chaos that was Ellis Island and mass immigration, one artist was able to capture a critical sentiment in a poem:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

These are my people. And unless you are a descendant of a native, you are my people, too. I don’t know much about my ancestors, but guaranteed they were lucky to get across from whence they came, thrilled to work, happy to have a chance.  

Recall, Americans, that regardless of your origin, you are an immigrant. You are the result of someone risking life and limb to become part of this great country of ours.

So, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, I remember the fallen and the heroes of that day. I also remember that our nation is stronger because of its diversity. Let us not forget that in the days after 9/11 there was cooperation and patriotism, but there was also confusion and fear. We have the freedom to honor each other for our differences every day. Let us not forget.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pacing, Structure, and Anger

I’m mad at a book, but I’m not going to tell you which one*.
The book I just finished had so much buzz about it that I read the first part of it online, desperate to get a glimpse of the novel that, “is the new book for the Hunger Games crowd.” Then I preordered it, hoping it would deliver to my Kindle early so I would be able to read it before today’s release date. The book downloaded yesterday. I stayed up most of the night finishing it.
So, if I read most of the book without putting it down it must be good, right? Right? 
Wrong. Not completely wrong, but big lots wrong. And the ending?!?! So. So wrong.
The main problem was the pacing. The book is the first in a trilogy, but it read like the first third of one book, not the first installment of three stories.
Look, I love book series. I get that not all stories can be told in one go, that you need more than one book to resolve the overall conflict and fully discover the world the author creates. But each book in a series needs to have all components of story structure.
We all know the basics of story structure, right? It was drilled in to us in high school. You’ve probably seen this graph, but I like the one further down better.

You start with exposition, which sets the tone and scene and introduces the main characters.
Then on to rising action. The initial conflict occurs, the main character now has a story goal, and more characters enter the story. Either the main character is working with these other characters or against them (antagonist) to complete their story goal.
And then …

There. That big black vertical line. You see it? Tension. Right smack in the middle of the story (or at 50% on Kindle). Let’s remember that we can have conflict throughout the story, but the reader needs more than that. A major revelation, a game changer that raises the stakes. It’s a figurative car crash scene after which everything changes. Characters see each other more clearly or they learn something significant about whoever is oppressing them. Then, after this event, a plan begins to form based on our new knowledge. We now know our enemy better, and our goal becomes clearer. There is something to work for, and a plan begins to form.
Continuing in the rising action portion of our story, our main character plots and plans. She struggles against adversaries, but has alliances, too, who help her with her story goal.
Then, finally, at about 85%-89%, it is time to execute the plan. This is the climax. We are riveted as our main character takes the risk. She utilizes the strengths she has gained throughout the book, overcomes challenges, she may realize something she hadn’t thought of before, but the plot points were leading her here all along. She triumphs.
Then, right at about 95%, we get our falling action and our resolution. The story goal is met, the future is described or alluded to, the lessons learned are delineated. In a series, there would also be a set up of the next part of the story with some kind of antagonism.
I checked. All of my favorite books have these elements, including the tension right at the half way mark. In Twilight, 50% is The Meadow scene. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth exactly half way in to the story. In The Hunger Games, Katniss fights off the Career Tributes for the first time.
In the book I just read, the halfway mark simply represents the end of one type of challenge and the start of a new, more mysterious challenge for our main character. We are taken from two of the characters we were invested in and then introduced to new characters. Our main character does not have a clear story goal, a coherent plan, or even an idea of who the enemy is. There are no important revelations, in fact, we are given very little information, and our heroine has lost her motivation. Don’t get me wrong, there’s action, a lot of it. It’s intense at points, especially in the beginning. This is what kept me reading. But without a stronger structure to the story there is no climax, and one challenge simply blends to the next.
And the ending! OMG the ending was infuriating. Near the end of the book, I’m talking at 93%, the main character finally gets a clue as to what is really going on. She decides to leave the crazy place she is in (this is where we should have been at the 50% point). Then, at 99%, she finally does leave, but discovers that the world she was in was even crazier than she could imagine. That’s it. No real answers. No resolution. Just part of an unfinished story.
Now, I like a good cliff-hanger, but you have to have a story to back it up. There has to be tension, clear consequences, a known opponent.
Here’s how the story should have gone. Keep in mind this is a contemporary young adult fantasy/apocalypse story.
0-10% - Main character “A” intro, disaster happens
10-20% - Struggles/conflict (lose supplies, strange creatures attack, etc.), intro little girl character “B” who relies on main character, something strange is happening, no real info, scary times, need help
20-30% - Intro love interest character “C”, seek shelter, get info on what is happening, ABC characters grow closer, go through challenges together
30-40% - ABC decide to leave current shelter to learn more about what is going on in real world, little girl B is taken, then love interest C gets hurt
40-50% - Main character A goes to find help, love interest B disappears, main character A enters strange town. A’s story goal: get ABC back together.
50-85% - Main character A realizes strangeness of town/danger right away, learns concrete information, creates a clear plan to escape, grows connected with some people in the strange town, even has a new love interest “D,” but feels ever stronger about her purpose and finding B and C.
85-95% - Executes plan, lots of tension and challenges in escaping, internal conflict b/c of those she’s leaving behind. Learns the strange town is even crazier than she thought, fuels her to keep going but makes her even more scared. Working for her story goal – to get back to B and C.
95% - Finally she reaches B and C. She rescues B (or they rescue each other?), then she finds C in a new town. So grateful to be back together. She describes the strange town to the new town, learns quickly how things operate in the new town, which is better because it’s a military structure and B is a leader. She expects the strange town people to come for her.
98% - Set up for next book. The strange town invades the new place. The new place is outnumbered, but led by military strategy and home field advantage give them the upper hand. Main character A is fighting and breaks her opponent’s arm. It’s her love interest D from strange town. Shock. Then she has a gun pointed at her and it goes off.
I know you didn’t read the book I’m talking about, but trust me, this would have been better. The author still could have maintained the characters, writing style, nuances, etc. that make the story good, but we would have had a complete book with anticipation for the next one in the series.
If they’re touting this as the next book for Hunger Games readers, it falls shy of the mark. Each of the HG books had a self-encased, fully fleshed story. Yes, each book included a set up for the next book and a cliff-hanger, but that was after the story was resolved.
There were other things that bugged me about the book, and lots of things I liked. I won’t detail them here. From the reviews I’ve read, everyone else loved this book, so maybe I expect too much.
I don’t have an MFA in creative writing and I’ve published exactly zero novels, but I read a lot. I can tell what works. And I’m telling you, readers should expect more than this.

*I chose not to name this book because writing is hard and I'm not a book critic, although a tiny bit of Googling will lead you to it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I feel like I should explain the book thing.  I have a bit of a reading problem. My to-read list is so long that if it weren’t digital I’d need an entire room to fit all of the books. I read any spare moment I can. I have become annoyed when there is a good show to watch on TV because it’s 23 less minutes of reading time. My sleep patterns are affected and my husband has to force me to turn off the light and go to bed.

The problem started when I was young and my mom gave me The Diary of Anne Frank. I was floored. Literally, my mom had to pick me off the floor when I finished the book. I went for more lighthearted material after that. I loved books that told a relatable story free of any real conflict. I liked contemporary works, no fantasy or sci fi, and only occasionally would I read an historical fiction. I read books about ballet (my sister and I tore through the Satin Slippers Series), Sweet Valley High, and other sugar coated nonsense that makes you want to brush your teeth now, but it was perfect for us back then.

In high school I read Jane Austen for the first time, and I practically fell out of my chair. I love Jane Austen. I’ve read everything she ever wrote. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma dozens of times each. I read them at least once a year because I like to visit my old friends.

From there it was the Bronte sisters, then Dickens, then Forster, then Wilde, then Tolstoy, and then I thought I should probably read something by Americans, so I read Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James and some others.

Anyway, I was a classics girl right up to college, where I stopped reading novels. I call this the dark ages because there was just no way to read for pleasure with a full college course load. If I read anything outside of the required reading list, it was biographies or memoirs of the people we studied, or non-fiction about relevant events.

I did read one non-school related book in college.  My sorority sisters passed The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood around so we could each learn the secrets. We would stare significantly into each other’s eyes like the YaYas did. But that was it. The one novel I read in college.

After college I reread A Room with a View by E. M. Forster when I was traveling through Italy, which was perfect because the book starts with a girl touring Florence, and my love of reading was renewed.

And then the real world hit, and thank God for books or I would have to cross oceans to find my happy place. There they were, my old friends Austen and the Bronte sisters (not Anne, the other two), waiting for me to pick them up again and visit. Oh, to be in a world where a girl’s biggest problem was the man she was going to marry!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I live now when I have, you know, choices and the vote, but still, it’s romantic and simpler.

So then I started reading IMPORTANT books. I was a college graduate and a teacher, so I had to be serious and read serious, adult things that MATTERED. So I read Ken Follett and Ken Kesey and Toni Morrison and others. But the books by those authors are not an escape. Those books are work. They are not fun, but they aren’t supposed to be. They are significant commentaries on the human condition and they matter, but I’d rather read about vampires.

I still read literary fiction (although I couldn’t get through the latest Jonathan Franzen book – ugh, depress me as much as possible why don’t you?!), but what I like best are the transformative, coming of age stories that are present in most young adult literature.

I love the Harry Potter books. Love them. If I could do it all over I would go to Hogwarts and be in Ravenclaw and play exploding snap and transfigure things. But I can’t, because it’s not real, so instead I’ll read about Harry. This is another series that has me jumping out of my seat I love it so much.

My real problem started with the Twilight Series. I’m going to be blunt and tell you that whatever you think about these books, they are a gateway drug series and have helped the YA lit market explode. More YA books are being published than ever before, and people of all ages are enjoying these stories. YA lit is about teens, but it is not written solely for teens. Most of the best books I’ve read lately are considered YA lit. If you want to know more, check out the Forever Young Adult webpage. They are brilliant.

So, the Twilight Series. I love it. I know it’s cheezy and misogynistic, but it’s also a well-told story. I love the characters and the world that Stephanie Myers created. So, although I wouldn’t have made the same choices that Bella did (Team Go-To-College-And-Get-Your-Own-Life), I like seeing her struggle through the consequences of those choices. I love how Myers writes about love. It’s so pure. It’s also limited and less complicated than real love, but it’s a fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy, a few years ago I realized that there was a whole world of great books out there that I never picked up because I thought I didn’t like fantasy. Obviously if I liked Harry Potter and Twilight, I might like others. So, my world opened up. I will read any dystopia you put in front of me. I will read about vampires and werewolves and fallen angels and magic. But no fairies. I draw the line at fairies.

If you haven’t read the Hunger Games yet, you need to. Now. Not because it’s trendy and there is a movie coming out, but because it’s good and it’s a significant commentary on the sacrifices, strategies, struggles, and choices that are made because of war.

When I think about it, the fact that I read mostly YA lit is not surprising. I’ve always loved these stories. Jane Austen’s main characters are in their early 20s at most. And what more fantasy is there than regency-era England? It’s all fantasy, it’s all an escape.

I’m always searching for the next thing that will force me out of the furniture. It started with Anne Frank, continued to all of Jane Austen’s work, then Harry and Bella and Katniss entered my life.  I love reading a new book, hoping it will be the next thing that renders me chairless.

I’ll probably talk a lot about the books I’ve read on here. It’s my candy, so I hope you want to share with me.