Posted in Mal's Book Reviews

Book Review #2

“Your fate is not yet sealed.
Even in the darkest night, a star will shine,
a bell will chime, a path will be revealed.” 

WOWIE WHAT A STORY! 

I had high expectations for Echo and Pam Muñoz Ryan. I loved Esperanza Rising so I was sure this book would impact me just the same. 

Echo is only a couple years old, and I discovered it while browsing the bookshops with my friends this past summer. The cover caught my first: more silhouettes, simple designs, and beautiful colors. Then I noticed the authors name, and finally, the story. A magical harmonica journeys through three different characters: Friedrich Schmidt, a twelve-year old boy living in Germany during Hitler’s rise, Mike Flannery, an orphan boy who won’t leave his younger brother’s side in Philadelphia, and Ivy Maria Lopez, a young girl who moves often, struggling to be good for her family in Southern California, a year after Pearl Harbor. 

So how is this harmonica magical? Well, the book opens just like any fairytale would. Three musically gifted princesses, cursed by a witch, found by a young boy in Germany. Otto, the young boy, is tasked by the princesses to send this magical harmonica into the world, to be the Messenger of their song. And how fitting it is passed through three different children who each love music dearly. 

Although, to be honest, I think the book could stand on its own without the fairytale frame. I still enjoyed it, and thinking that the harmonica found each kid through magic makes it exciting. 

Music, and the harmonica, is a character in Echo as well. It connects the stories together, from each special piece of music slipping into the next story: Brahm’s Lullaby through Friedrich, “America the Beautiful” with Mike, and “Auld Lang Syne” by Ivy. Each song playing an important role in each child’s life, creating an orchestra inside our imaginations. 

Speaking of the music, I’d definitely suggest listening to the audiobook. It had harmonica compositions, as well as the cello, piano, and several other instruments. I’ve cried several times just listening to the music, and you might too! 

So do the characters actually meet? YES! Kind of. In the final chapters of the story, their worlds all come together many years later, Friedrich conducting an orchestra where Ivy and Mike play an instrument in. In the final chapters, we’re taken through flashbacks, learning what happened at the end of each cliffhanger for the characters, including Otto the Messenger. 

Sadly, they never mention the harmonica that had each come into their lives. It’s fun to leave that up to the imagination, but wow, what a coincidence if that’s ever brought up again.  It’s a fun thought!

I haven’t stopped thinking about this book since I finished it. Music connects us all, and even through Echo it continues to connect us through time. 

And that sounds like magic to me!

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Posted in Mal's Book Reviews

Book Review #1

All right! Here we go! 

Quick warning: I’ll try to keep my book reviews spoiler free. You may come across minor spoilers if you want to read this book! 

See You in the Cosmos has been on my book list since it came out last year. I wish I read it sooner but sadly, books are expensive.

I gotta say, sometimes you just have to forget about that “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” talk around books. I mean have you seen this cover? It’s beautiful! The cover is definitely something that caught my attention because it’s simple down to the silhouette and colors, covered in stars, and there’s a dog. 

So here’s the premise: Eleven-year old Alex Petroski wants to launch his own golden iPod filled with recordings of life on Earth into space with a rocket he built himself. 

Now that pulled me in instantly. When I was a kid I was obsessed with many things about our world and the worlds beyond our little solar system. I wanted to be an astronomer (or a marine biologist) but math has never really been my strongest skill. But I still placed this book at the top of my list. When I finally got my hands on it (big shout out to libraries around the world), I was drawn into Alex’s life in the first “recording”.  

“Recording? What are you talking about?!”

Yup, you read that correctly. Instead of CHAPTERS, Jack Cheng uses RECORDINGS, along with time stamps to give us an idea of how long they were. This is similar to an epistolary novel in a way (which are my weakness. Show me any kind of epistolary novel and I will drop everything to read it). His voice is so unique and enjoyable, with a touch of childlike innocence.

Alex starts his first recording with a  series of questions: 

Who are you?

What do you look like?

Do you have one head or two?

More?

And that gave me an idea: What if I pretend to be this alien Alex is creating these recordings for? Which isn’t hard to do as a twenty-two year old woman reading a book about an eleven-year old boy. So I listened to Alex’s story as he described his home, his family, and his dog, Carl Sagan, named after the astronomer. He tells us about SHARF, Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival, where he plans to take a train from Colorado to New Mexico, spurring an even bigger road trip with adults from the internet on a quest to find answers.  

Ok, ok, that sounds a bit sketchy, but it turns out to be extremely sweet, with a few bumps along the way. Although I’m not too fond of adults being main characters in children’s books, I gotta say that this was handled beautifully. We have Steve and Zen, who help out Alex with his camping gear as well as giving him a ride to Nevada to find out information about his dad. 

Alex finds his half-sister Terra, rather than his dad. At first, she doesn’t want Alex to call her “sister”, so in his recordings, Alex starts to refer to her as “My Terra” and shows her his golden iPod. And that’s when the story really kicks off. Together they start to unravel the mystery of their family, all while revealing how human we all can be, filled with complex emotions and hopes that even we can’t understand sometimes.

See You in the Cosmos really gets down to the beautiful side of humanity. Alex shows us that in his recordings with his unconditional love for his family, and his found family in Zen and Steve. And that’s something he reminded me of: with all the worst things in the world, we are capable of love and hope to everyone. Especially aliens who may be listening.

Definitely check this book out. It’s stellar!

Posted in News and Updates

Woah…. it’s December?!

Hi there! I just gotta apologize for disappearing during Novemeber. But good news: I kicked NaNoWriMo’s butt this year and finished my novel! Now onto editing it!  It needs it. Desperately 

Some more Good News: my short story, “A Hero & Her Roommate” was selected for my college’s creative arts journal. I didn’t think that make it in! 

So what’s happening this month?

  • Book Reviews: I have a long list of books to read, so I’ll be writing about them as I finish. They’ll be a mixture of my thoughts as well as things you’d find in a normal book review. 
  • Illustrations with story excerpts: Hey guess what. In my journals I’ve got tons of drawings that I have stories for. Time to put them to good use! 
  • Random Novel Updates!
  • More Illustrations and stories based on prompts I find around the internet! 

Thanks for sticking around! My first book review will be up later today. 

Posted in Inktober 2018

Inktober Day 31: Slice

Part 31: The End

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After the reunion with her family and a fresh change of clothes, Charlie and Daisy walked down the stairs to join the bonfire started by Elwood’s group. The entire village turned out, everyone asked question after question about where she was, and about the man who took her. Charlie hated talking about Mr. Betts, but thank goodness Moira swooped in with a short statement, “The rangers took care of him.”

Moira also decided to sit her down in front of the fire, and announced to everyone, “My best friend, Charlie, will answer everyone’s questions with a story!”

The crowd cheered, all eyes turning to Charlie. She blushed, and Daisy patted her face. “You got this,” she said.

Moira smiled. “I’m here,” she whispered.

Charlie turned to the crowd. “Well, it all started with a magical flower in the woods.” She launched into her story, introducing Daisy to everyone. Moira jumped in whenever she pleased, adding her own spin and helped move the story on. Charlie grew quiet when it came to the couple of weeks traveling with Mr. Betts, and Errol’s help. But her voice rang out to the crowd as she shared the phoenix’s flying high above them. She noticed her mom clutch her dad’s arm when she talked about falling off the cliff and the phoenix saving her life. She ran around the fire, imitating the flight, lighting her own fire trail behind her, much to the crowd’s delight.

At the end of night, when all the cake was gone, and the kids were all nodding off, Charlie, Daisy, and Moira snuck off to the inn rooftop to watch the stars. Moira whispered, “Think you’ll ever see that phoenix again?”

Charlie laughed. “I hope so.”

Continue reading “Inktober Day 31: Slice”

Posted in Inktober 2018

Inktober Day 30: Jolt

Part 30: Home At Last

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Charlie ran ahead of the rest of the party after she noticed a familiar yellow striped sweater under the village’s welcome arch. She watched at Moira hopped onto a broomstick awkwardly, as her foot was still in a cast. Before she could push off from the ground, Charlie shouted, “MOIRA!”

Her broom lurched forward, throwing Moira off right into Charlie, who caught her before she hit the ground. “Charlie?” Moira gasped. “You’re actually back!”

“Why wouldn’t I be back?” Charlie asked, blinking back tears.

Moira spun around and hugged her best friend tightly. “The rangers kept comin’ back with nothin’. Today they said ya were gone forever, but I couldn’t handle that, so I snuck my broom outta town to fly off to find ya,” she sobbed, hugging Charlie tighter. “I’ve missed ya so much.”

Charlie sobbed too, as they both sank to the ground, holding tight onto each other. “I missed you too,” she choked.

Posted in Inktober 2018

Inktober Day 29: Double

Part 29: Home by Tomorrow

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Three weeks of travel passed on the road home. Charlie got to know the rest of the Elwood’s group. She spent hours listening to Elwood and the other elders telling stories of the past, days running around with the other children who begged to see her fire puppets, and evenings around a warm campfire when they stopped to rest. They would tell her exciting adventures of their own travels, never staying in one place for too long. They loved life on the road, and while some would leave, others would join in.

During these weeks, Charlie found herself hiding with Errol, listening to him write in his journals. She enjoyed spending time with him, sitting quietly in the carts and watch the world pass by. Charlie often wondered if this was having an older brother was like.

On the last week of their travels, Charlie was ahead of the group with Errol, when she noticed two tall towers sticking up above the autumn colors. She squinted, studying the shape carefully. “Oh!” Charlie cried out, “That’s the DoubleRing Tower! We’re getting so close!”

Errol stood next to her, shielding his face from the afternoon sun. “If we go at the pace we’re at now, we’ll be at the Tower by sunset,” he said, smiling. “We might stop there for camp, and continue on in the morning.”

Charlie couldn’t hold back her smile. “So I’ll be home by tomorrow,” she whispered. Running up to the edge of the path, she shouted so loud it made birds fly from the tree into the blue sky, “I’M COMIN’ HOME!”

Posted in Inktober 2018

Inktober Day 28: Gift

Part 28: The Phoenix Rider

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The phoenix landed further away from the cliff, behind Elwood’s party. Charlie slipped off the bird and hugged it tightly, whispering, “Thank you.”

He blinked slowly, flapping his wings excitedly as a bunch of kids surrounded them, cheering happily. A single orange-reddish feather floated down from his wing. The phoenix caught it in his beak, and dropped it in Charlie’s lap. He seemed to smile happily, and nudged her one more time. Charlie laughed, and hugged the phoenix one more time, stroking his beak. “You better get going,” Charlie said, “Catch up with your family.”

The phoenix chirped again, and soared into the air, leaving behind a trail of light as he joined the rest of his flock. Charlie smiled, holding the feather close. The kids swarmed her, and started asking question after question.

“Can I fly on it next?”

“THAT WAS SO COOL!”

“Can I see the feather?!”

Elwood approached the swarm of kids, his smile almost as big as the kids around her. He knelt down next to Charlie. “Now that is something I’ve never seen before,” he said. “You are something special.” He smiled again. “Thank goodness you’re all right.”

Charlie nodded. She peeked around him, searching for Mr. Betts.

“Don’t worry,” Elwood said, as if reading her thoughts. “He’s not going to take you away again.”

“Good,” Charlie said as she stared down at her hand.

Elwood stood up, and addressed his party, “All right, let’s pack it up everyone!” He winked at Charlie. “It’s about time we take our phoenix rider home.”