Before I fall

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If there is one story I can read, reimagined time and time again, it’s the groundhog day – 12 days of chirstmas – butterfly effect – repete this day until you finally get it right – story. BEFORE I FALL was the perfect reimagined version of this. I was a fan of Lauren Oliver when I read PANIC, but I’m in love with her after BEFORE I FALL.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

From the first pages, Oliver grips you and drags you into the depths of her story. Wave of emotions pound at you until the very last page. I worried that living the same seven days would fall flat on paper but Oliver manages to raise questions about love, life, death, and how we are all interconnected. In a lot of ways this reminds me of Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. It explores some of those same themes, what you do in life effects those around you. Living seven days through Sam’s eyes, was heart breaking, exilerating, and shatering all in the same breath.

Growing up, I was Juliet Skyes. I had my own version of Sam’s group. I never went so far as to consider suicide over their mean and hateful pranks, but I was lucky. I knew that after high school, none of it would mater anymore. I’d get a fresh start and they’d still be the shity person they were. Sometimes all of that’s hard to admit. No one wants to admit that they were bullied in school. Or that they were a bully.

I loved the transformation we see Sam go through. From mean girl to a girl who cares. She makes personal amends in every aspect of her life. With her parrents, sister, friends, people she doesn’t know, and ultimetly with the one person who needs it the most.

BEFORE I FALL was thoughtfully writen and it will go down as one of my favorites for years to come.

 

 

Fangirl

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FANGIRL is my third Rainbow Rowell book and so maybe my love of ELEANOR AND PARK and KINDRED SPIRITS should have been the clue that reading more of Rainbow’s stuff was a good idea. But if I’m being honest, I had this fear that I’d be let down. It happens sometimes. You build an author up in your head and then fall that much harder when they fail to meet such high expectations. Maybe ELANOR AND PARK was a fluke and when I read FANGIRL or any other book by Rainbow, I’d be disappointed. I couldn’t face being such a low after I’d fallen so hard for the other two books.

I wasn’t disappointed.

There are so many reasons to love FANGIRL. So many reasons to run screaming through the streets, praising this book. Beyond whatever I can say, what I love about this book is the way it stirs my heart and warms my soul. It’s like drinking a cup of something I didn’t know I was missing.

Cather is a Simon Snow fan. She’s also one of the most popular writers of Fanfiction online. Being a fan has been Cath’s whole life. It’s the one thing she’s really good at. She and her twin sister Wren have drifted apart. College has brought on some new challenges. Cath is on her own for the first time and far out of her comfort zone. Her English professor believes that fanfiction is the equivalent of plagiarism. Her roommate is moody with a charming boyfriend who is always around. Oh and the boy at the library who only wants to use her words. Does moving on mean she has to give up Simon too?

This was beautifully written. I’m liquid and in love. Watch me pretend like I wasn’t a big fan before… because yea, it’s official, I love Rainbow Rowell. Hard. I love her books so hard I want to force them down my friend’s throats until they have to like her too. That’s not weird is it?

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More Happy Than Not

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I think most readers of Adam Silvera’s MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, probably don’t remember Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I do. Silvera’s first novel brings this idea of erasing bad memories, to a new generation. A rollercoaster of emotions have wrecked havoc on my emotional state while reading this book. I kept hoping for a happy ending, for the book to go a certain way and it never did what I thought it might. It’s hard to surprise me in a book and so for that, I’m thankful.

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is about a boy who is considering a memory altercation procedure to help him forget that he’s gay. He believes that living a life as a straight teenager would make him happier and ultimately be easier on himself and his friends. Silvera himself says this book is about, “…science versus nature, friendship, sexuality, and a quest for happiness.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I’ve lost two people in my life to suicide, one of them just over a year ago. It breaks my heart that Homophobia still exists. That there are those who go out of their way to hurt another human over love. I’ll never wrap my head around that kind of hate. I teach at a middle school and I watch teenagers self-harm because they feel no one in the world understands what they’re going through. Books like these must continue to authored and must continue to be read. If all else, to give a ray of hope to those who are suffering, that they’re not alone.

Silvera’s book is unforgettable, painful, beautiful, and so many more words I can’t conjure at this moment.

For The Love Of Macs

So I got a new computer over the weekend. I went in anticipating buying the older 2012 Macbook Pro and upgrading some of the features. Dropping $1800 on the retna 13.3 inch Macbook Pro was just a bit out of price range. Until I walked into best buy and found a perfect condition (minus a couple of EXTREMELY light scratches on the shell) open box for only $1300 of the exact dream computer that was out of grip. WHAT?! Fate? I think so.

So the last two days I’ve been transferring information and setting up all my applications, installing all my software and getting used to some of the new features that differ from my old 2010 model. So far, I have nothing but good things to say about it. I’ve been in love with Mac computers since I was in the fourth grade. My school received a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, and (ironically enough) spent the money on a new computer lab filled with Macs. This was back in the early 90s and let me just say, it was love at first sight.

Computer lab day was every Wednesday after lunch and before reading (my other favorite part of school… are you surprised? Yea… didn’t think so). I’d sit at computer number 7, because that was my lucky number. I’d run my fingers over the keyboard and dream that some day I’d learn to type fanciful stories, clicking it’s keys until the whole page filled with words. I’m fairly confident that my love a good clicky keyboard was born in this room.

My longing would temporarily ease when I’d get to pick between Oregon Trail or Kid Pix. Sometimes the choice would be too much and 30 minutes would go by way too quickly, but I’d usually die of dysentery with just enough time to spell my name out with primary and neon colored blobs. Once in a while, I’d open a document and just press keys. I’d type out my name or something to the effect of, “Miranda is the best.” Slowly I’d fall into a rhythmic pattern clicking the keys, pressing enter at the end of each line, and filing the page letter after letter.

In some ways, my love for writing was born of daydreams at the hands of a Mac. In the back of my mind, as the years passed, I always associated owning one with making my dreams come true. It might sound stupid, but it is what it is. I know logically that I’ve known I wanted to be a writer, for an entire year more then I knew I loved Macs. Even more, that I wrote for years on a PC before owning one of my own.

But still. In my mind they will forever be intertwined.

And I’m okay with that.

 

Sex Criminals & Scott Pilgrim

 

I’m not really a comic book person. At the end of the day, there just are not enough words. I want more out of the story than I feel a comic or a graphic novel can provide me. My sister, Mel, however is an avid comic book nerd. She can school just about any dude we’ve encountered on the ins and outs of just about every superhero not to mention the hundreds of non-superhero comics available. Maybe not so ironically, she’s not a big reader.

Like a drug dealer, I push books on everyone I meet. I’m always recommending this book or that one, depending on the person’s tastes. It helps that I’ll read just about anything under the sun. I’m always trying to get Mel to read something new. Testing the waters with a new title as often as I catch her in the same room long enough. In recent years she’s tried to turn me to comics.

I’ve read a small handful of what she considers to be the best of the best. It pisses her off that I don’t even agree with her half the time, but once in a while she catches my attention with something new and fun.

Enter: comiXology

I downloaded this new app onto my tablet called comiXology. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s an app to read comics and graphic novels from. You can buy digital versions of basically anything and application has painted software that moves through each panel smoothly. They also have a free trial of their monthly subscription service where you can read a number of their “unlimited” titles. Now, I could give a rats ass if you choose to subscribe to them, I’m just telling you how I’m reading these titles. As someone who doesn’t really want to invest in graphic novels that I probably won’t like, $5.99 a month is a steal. That being said…

I decided to use my free trial to peruse some new titles. I left several after a few pages because blah. Either the story wasn’t catching me or the pictures weren’t. But then I came across Scott Pilgrim. Like most of the world, I’d heard of Scott Pilgrim, but unlike most of the world, I’d never read it. So why the heck not.

It was very catchy. I was surprised in a good way that the story moved with ease and mostly that I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Side note: I’ve also never watched the movie. But after reading the first graphic novel, I’m set on reading another and finding the movie.

Okay so one point Mel. Who knew that I’d find something I’d like all on my own.

So I’m pursuing the titles again and I come across: Sex Criminals. We both know that title caught your attention too, let’s not pretend it didn’t. The clincher was that Pat Rothfuss and Wil Wheaton both loved this book too when I looked it up. How could I go wrong?

I was not disappointed! Best Graphic Novel I’ve read probably ever. Not that I’ve read that many, but still. It had a crazy amazing story, the art was beautiful, and at the end of the day I just really enjoyed it. Providing that reading about two people who have the ability to stop time by having sex doesn’t bother you, than I’d highly recommend checking this book out!

Secret? I’d probably even buy the whole set to own in book format. Shocking I know. 2 points Mel. Now, if I can only find something that will grab her attention long enough to even the score.

Sleeping Giants

At the 2016 Emerald City Comicon, I met Sylvain Neuvel. He was so quiet and shy, and cradled in his hands was a copy of Sleeping Giants. I heard about a large number of books that were coming out, or had already come out via the con. I was given an even larger number of books to take home and read. But this was the only one that I was truly excited about. Sylvain even gave me a copy of his new book.

I had to wait to read it of course, because book rules dictate that no one reads my autographed and special release books. I’m one of those crazy book people who put them up on their own shelve and they stay in the most pristine condition ever. Someday I’d like to have a glass cabinet in which to display them all… oh dreamland, you’re the best.

Last week I downloaded a copy of Sleeping Giants from audible. It’s read by a full cast of people. The book is written through a number of case studies, journals, logs, etc. as it follows a few specific characters. 20 years have passed since a giant glowing hand was found in the earth, cradling a child. Now a secret government agency is uncovering all the missing parts of what appears to be a  sleeping giant. Is it alien? Will it cause havoc or peace? Who is the nameless man pulling the strings?

I am still reeling from this book and I finished it yesterday. The ending has me seeing stars and I saw nothing coming. NOTHING. I’m usually quite good at predicting how a book will progress and the ultimate ending, however Sleeping Giants kept me at the edge of my proverbial seat until the very last page. The log entries helped keep up the suspense and had me clawing for the next time I’d hear from a specific character. I don’t even want to tell you more about the book, because it’s that good. I don’t want to spoil any of it for those who might pick it up. It’s rare for a book to come along and keep the suspense up for so long. I bow to you Sylvain.

When I reached about an hour from the end, I had to find out if there was more. Was this it? Could he wrap up such a large, cultivated, interact story so quickly? Nope… of course not. This is book one of three. Ahhh… ding ding ding, it all makes so much sense. There was no way this could be it. Simply put, I need more.

Like a lot more.

A little game of catch up…

While most of you know that I’m a full time writer, many of you don’t know that I’m a part time substitute teacher – grades k-12. While I fell into the job, I’ve always loved teaching; it’s been a passion of mine since I was very young.

I was in the fifth grade when I started to volunteer my free time in other classrooms. I continued to do this well into high school, only then I was tutoring math. Now at 31 I have a BA in Criminal Justice, an MA in HR, and an MA in OL. I have tutored nearly every subject, (the googlies are your friend) and now I teach them. I’m a firm believer that education is important, those who don’t get one are only doing themselves a disservice. I wholeheartedly believe that actively reading can open doors, not just to knew worlds fictionally speaking, but it allows the reader to experience life through the words of another person. I could tangent here for a while but I’ll step down from my soapbox.

But back to teaching, it’s weird, I’ll give you that. Yesterday I was teaching 4th grade in the morning, kindergarten in the afternoon, and today It’s high school biology. I can say this, kids at every level like to push boundaries. They all try to get away with things that would never fly if their actual teacher was in the room. Mostly, I think I’ve been pretty lucky. Outside of booger pickers, a few crying kids, and the occasional student who thinks he’s smarter than me, I have no complaints.

In fact, I’m considering a program that might allow me to become a certified teacher with my own classroom. I’ve had so many different careers at this point, while writing is still my dream, something has to pay the bills. If I could teach, impact children’s lives positively, encourage reading and learning two deep passions of mine,  and enjoy it all… why wouldn’t I?

So while that’s going on at the forefront of my life, school comes to an end next week, there are other things going on in the background. Mostly the writing game. I’m still waiting to hear from 5/6 of the agents and editors from the Las Vegas Writers Conference. I’ve had one rejection already but alas, I’d been rejected before from that agent. He had wonderful complements to offer about my writing but ultimately he’s more interested in a different genera. I don’t take offense to his response at all. I had no expectations and the fact that he still had wonderful things to say about my writing made me all the happier. I still hold out hope that I’ll hear something from one of the five other people who requested fulls or partials of my novel. I have a good feeling about the conference and the contacts I made.

Speaking of networking and the such… One of the major writer’s “things” I’ve always felt was missing, is a critique group. I’ve tried to join one near me, except they’re not really that close. They meet at a time when I have prior commitments and I find myself banging my head against the wall a bit. What to do, what to do.

Well when I was at the conference I met another writer and we hit it off. We’ve exchanged manuscripts, and I feel so honored that she’s let me give her feed back and that she’s taken the time to share feed back about mine with me. There is something to be said for having these people in our lives, as creatives. I can talk till I’m blue in the face with a non-writer but the monosyllable responses get old. They never get as excited about pros and dialog, or about world building. They never debate the wording of a particular passage, or really understand what it’s like to have a character talk to you. I watch as eyes glaze over, and boredom sets in. Nuance is lost on them and forget about day dreaming aloud with them about other authors and us riding a wine train when we someday make it. They just don’t “Get It” the same way that another writer would.

I don’t think I realized how much this was missing from my life, until the conference. It’s refreshing, not to mention exciting, to engage with someone several times a week about our craft, life, and how it all ties together. About obsession with the dark side of writing and the light. About character growth and the arch of a story. I feel very lucky to have made a new friend and thankful that despite the distance in real life, she’s my neighbor in the world of make believe.

Well my free time in class is about to end and I should sign off. Oh but before I do, I’m nearly finished listing to the book Sleeping Giants and WOW… If you haven’t looked this book up, do so now. Or you will regret it later, I’m almost certain.

Cheers!

M

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11-22-63

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For those of you who follow, I started this book a couple of months ago. Generally speaking I’m a much quicker reader and often this when I struggle it is due to disinterest or distraction of some other shinny new book. In this case, it was the later. Let’s face it, everyone knows that anything by Stephen King is quite the undertaking. This was no exception.

It might have taken me longer to get through, but it did not take away from what I consider one of his best pieces of work. I have this weird fascination with history and people and in a lot of ways, 11.22.63 fulfills all of my book loving dreams.

George…err… Jake (because who doesn’t want a secret Identity?) is an English teacher who finds himself in an interesting position, a doorway to the past has landed in his lap. If you could change history for the better, would you? With some persuasion, Jake goes back in time to stop the Kennedy Assassination. In theory, if he’s able to prevent it from happening, by killing Oswald, the entire world would be a different place. But will it be a better place or will the butterfly effect wreck havoc and destroy  Earth as we know it?…

Filled with a generous heaping of 1960s history and a side of time travel, King sent me back in time with Jake to an America of long ago.

Like many of you out there, I picked up a copy of this book when it first came out. It sat on my shelf for a long while, and when the television show came out I was hooked.

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One episode in and I knew that I had to read the book. By episode three I was buying the audio version to go along with it and by episode 6 I’d nearly made it half way through the audio book. Right along with the mini series I had to know what was going to happen. What was different? Was it better or worse then the other? I couldn’t even decide until I finished both.

For a shortened ride, high highs, low lows, go with the television show. For the full effects of a mind bending tale that will warp your mind and have you craving more, read the book. Of course read the book. Like there was any other options.

 

 

Ready Player One vs. Armada

It is a 19 hour drive from Las Vegas to my home on Whidbey Island Washington. This of course is failing to calculate time for gas, food, and endless bathroom breaks or when the car started to leak fluid. To say the least, we had some time to kill. However, as much as I would have love finishing the last few hours of 11/22/63 my driving companions did not have the pleasure of listening to the first 25 hours or so.

After a bit of radio trouble, no CD player, and after the sound of tire against pavement starts to drill holes into your brain, we decided to listen to an audio book. On the drive down we started Ready Player One and on the drive home we listened to Armada both by Ernie Cline. If you haven’t read it before you can catch up on both by following the links. I highly recommend both. In fact, Ready Player One is my current favorite novel.

So all that being said, I got to listen to both again in the last month and it was lovely. I’ve heard some people really try to compare the two books and in my experience Armada gets a bit of flack.  I chock this up to a grandiose generalization of the geek factor. One of the beautiful things about Ernest Cline is the ability anyone has to pick up one of his books (or poems) and know from the voice that the author is Ernie Cline. His writing has such a strong and unique voice. There is never any doubt when I pick up a Steven King book, that he wrote it. Regardless of the topic, his books carry in a unique way only to Steven King. I believe the same could be said about Ernie Cline.

Out side of that same unique story telling ability and the pop culture references, Ready Player One and Armada are night and day from one another. They both have young male protagonists and both books are narrated by Wil Wheaton; but that is where the similarities end.

In Ready Player One, Cline built an entire futuristic world where famine, war, technology has turned Earth into something almost unrecognizable. He does this while drawing parallels to our own lives on earth. It’s easy to spend hours on the internet, playing a video game, or chatting with a long distance friend. Teenagers today face a very different reality then the one I had. I grew up without a cell phone. Social networking was thrust upon me after high school and I didn’t really even fall pray till about 8 years ago.  Just think, 8 years ago when you googled my name, nothing would have come up.

Today, teenagers have cellphones, and not the kind we eventually got where snake was the coolest feature. These kids today walk around with mini computers taped into the world in their back pockets. Texting is instant gratification. We used to write letters and fold them up into insane origami shapes.  Folding was half the fun of sending someone a message. Who really cared what it said. I read that the simple act of hand writing anything is going away in schools. I still can’t quite wrap my head around it.

But I digress. My point was that it is easy to see how quickly we could find ourselves in the world of Ready Player One. It’s not hard to picture Armada either. A book where another alien race has invaded Earth. Now I am of the belief that it is very egotistical to think that we are the only intelligent life in our universe, let alone all of them. I love a good alien story. Is it really so far fetched? Nah, not one bit. but these worlds and characters are night and day from one another.

Personally, I look forward to Ernest Cline’s newest book, whatever it may be. And I’ll be one of the first in line to watch theatrical versions of either.

Happy New Years

Already the end of another year has approached. I think that this is the first year in a long time that I don’t feel depressed at the shear idea of yet anther calendar passing us by. Maybe it is due to the fact that I’ve been too busy to think about how I’m getting older by the day and with what to show for it? Oh look, I think I see the perfect opportunity to reflect coming on….before-sunset.png

This past six months have been a trying emotional struggle. Most people know at this point – if not from my Episode column about Luke and Leia then from a first had conversation – I’ve been helping my parents to care for and raise my niece and nephew. To say that the family end of my life this past year has been a demanding, exhausting, and sleep deprived doesn’t seem to do it all justice. But I’ve gotten to watch two remarkable little kids grow every day and it has made me think about the very real aspects of deciding one day to have kids or not. I know that I would never want to do it alone, but with the right person I could see how magical it all can be: shaping young minds, showing them that being who you are is a good thing, teaching them the importance of a 3-minute dance party, how to embrace your inner geekdom, I constantly want to offer them a better world where reading is cool, and people can save themselves. However, boy do I ever miss the quiet life. I miss the freedom to put me first. I know that sounds bad but it’s the truth.

The children haven’t been my only adventure this year, life is full of them. I am a contributing author for National Geographic’s Veteran’s Voices: Stories of Heroism, Sacrifice, and Honor which comes out April 26th, 2016 – distribution by Penguin Random House! Becoming a writer is one of my earliest dreams in life, and I feel like I can finally officially call myself an author. I’ve talked about it in my blogs before, but I feel so utterly blessed to be apart of this project and I look forward to more writing opportunities in the future.  This one was particularly touching, on multiple occasions it may have had me in tears. Maybe. To listen to the real life accounts of these warriors and heroes who have sacrificed so much gave me chills. To have the opportunity to write them down for the world to read was more then I could have asked for.

I’ve written other things this past year as well. I’ve finished Faerwald (working title) a science fiction – time travel book about family and friendship, with an alien sprinkled in – just one though. I’m looking for representation presently so keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ve also entered a couple of short story competitions this past year, so who knows maybe one will take.

The opportunity to write and follow my dreams has been a gift unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I’ve worked for the man and paid my dues (for YEARS), I’ve worked for myself and paid those dues too. I’ve done a lot of amazing things with my life so not to knock them down in any capacity, but I’ve never lived my dream job before and I’m really giving it everything I can.

Recently I’ve been dabbling with digital art. I’ve been an artist my whole life, canvas, walls, charcoal, paint, pen, any opportunity I could take to make art. Over the past couple of years, my art has taken a back seat to life. Moving into the digital age has provided me the opportunity to work in a new medium and with unlimited virtual canvas. Hello! Who doesn’t love that?! Right now I’m trying to add a bombed Death Star to a picturesque landscape. Also I’m designing the most kick ass nerd tattoo EVER. You know, whateves.

On the book front – Every year I try to accomplish my Goodreads goal. This year I upped my game with a goal of 50 books and with just a few chapters left before midnight, it’s looking like I’m going to make it!

Clearly making my Goodreads goal is winning out over going out to some bar where the only person I’ll make out with will be the stranger to my left as the clock strikes midnight. I’m struggling to see the point in it all. Maybe I’m jaded, but I like to think of it as waiting for the right sorta geek to stumble my way. Someone who doesn’t mind the fact that I need my own library to house my tiny book collection – because it could be much larger, I’ve shown restraint. Someone who will listen to me ramble endlessly about my new characters and provide me an endless supportive wall to bounce ideas off of. I want to do the same for the record, I want to listen and laugh and be an idea wall too. Just someone who believes that there are things worth fighting for. Oh and passion – I want truck loads of it in all aspects of our lives. That’s it. Not too much to ask for, right?!Screen-Shot-2015-08-09-at-1.27.29-am.png

I’m putting it all out there this year, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to ask for what you want. I want the opportunity to write more, I want to.. No I will find a publishing house for my novels. I’ll meet more people this year. I have dreams of someday buying a house and seeing more of the world. 2016 will be fantastic, even if I have to drag it kicking and screaming while beating it into submission. That sounded a bit harsh, but I think you get the picture. It’s time to rise up and take life by the metaphorical balls or horns or whatever you want to hold onto!

I wish that this next year be filled with magic, dreams, and the good kind of crazy. I want to make art, and you should too. The world always needs more art in whatever capacity. I hope you kiss someone who thinks the world of you. Read more. Do something that scares you, I will too and who knows, maybe next year we’ll both be surprised.

Happy New Years

-M

P.S.

I’m betting you can guess what I’m going to be watching tonight…

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