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!