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Posted in Creative NonFiction

Let’s Race

Faster!

I can’t.

Faster!

My legs are tired.

Please?

You stare ahead at the fields stretching endlessly to the mountains. The hidden part of your small desert town. Mountains shield you from the borders, purples and indigos against the blue skies. For a moment you smile, remembering how you always used purple to draw the mountains. You slow down your bike as you ride next to the canals. Not much water today; it must be a drain day. The fields are barren too. All the winter vegetables plucked, shipped, and gone to the rest of the west coast. The fields are waiting for their next seed. As you pedal over the dirt, following the ghosts of past trails, you hear her again.

Faster. Why won’t you go faster?

I’m not you anymore. 

You love going fast.

There’s no reason to be fast.

Let’s race. 

I can’t.

You pause at the road. Cars thunder past, leaving large gaps for you to sneak by. You don’t cross yet. Birds cry, hiding in their trees. It’s a perfect winter day for the birds. How free they must feel flying around with nothing holding them back. You used to dream of flying with them.

Race me.

Why?

Because you’re still me. Somewhere in there.

I don’t think so.

Remember how we used to fly? When that bike was our dragon?

Dragons aren’t real.

Sure they are. I’ll show you.

You set your foot on the pedal. The winter sun catches on the light blue frame of your bike as you cross the road. You stare straight ahead, watching the trees shake in the breeze.

Ready?

I guess.

First one to the waterfall wins!

You push off, picking up speed as you tread the bumpy road. The wind pushes you forward, flying past your face, tossing your hair all around you. A few birds take to the sky. You remember what it’s like to fly, and soon you’re soaring high above the fields, watching the world pass by around you, until you pump the brakes and skid to a stop. You’re back on the ground, listening to the rushing water flow into the canals.

An alarm shouts from the smallest pocket in your backpack. Time’s up. Time to go home. So you turn around, and head back, faster this time.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review #4

Before I take my latest stack of books back to the library tomorrow, I gotta sit down and tell you about this beautiful book.

Back in October after a slightly stressful interview, I was wandering the aisles of my Barnes & Noble, looking for something new to read. Wonderland caught my eye first, with these adorable girls riding bikes down a hill. The image instantly calmed me, so I picked it up and read through the summary. The next thing that caught my eye: it’s set in the summer time AND it’s about friendship. I’m a sucker for those types of books!

Told through three characters, Mavis, Rose, and Henry, this middle grade book sets up a theme of unlikely friendships, and understanding others. Mavis and her mom move from Georgia to Atlanta, where Mavis’s mom is set up to work for a wealthy family— Rose’s family.

Mavis, upon meeting Rose, instantly asks Rose to be her best friend, though neither girl really knows what that actually means. Rose spends most of her time with Mr. Duffy, the old gate keeper at Magnolia Estates, who recently lost his dog. When Rose introduces Mavis to Mr. Duffy, Mavis creates a plot to cheer him up—by getting him a new dog.

Meanwhile, Henry, a stray from the old race track Wonderland, roams the woods near Magnolia estates, looking for a home. The girls meet him later in the story, spurring on a fight between the best friends, braveness and Rose, and an understanding of what a true friend really is.

This book was a lovely read, and I’m adding the rest of Barbara O’Connor’s books to my reading list!

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review #3

“Don’t you ever just get a feeling sometimes? That’s the universe sending you a letter.”
“I think Lola gets lots of letters.”
“We all do. Some of use are just better at opening them.”

Erin Entrada Kelly, Hello, Universe

I was feeling a bit sick today. But that’s the best time to pick a book from my stack of library books to read for a few hours. So why don’t we jump right in? (Sorry if it feels a bit short. My head is still a little woozy).

Hello, Universe is told from the perspective of four, freshly out of sixth grade, kids: Virgil, a shy boy who’s family calls him Turtle, Valencia Somerset, a smart girl who loves zoology, Kaori, a fourtune teller, and Chet “the Bull” Bullens, the neighborhood bully. Everyone, except Valencia, tells their part of the story through third person limited, while Valencia shares hers first person present.

We listen to Virgil’s, Kaori’s, and Chet’s stories, but we see through Valencia’s eyes, as she is also deaf. It’s summed up in this sweet moment between Virgil’s Lola, who tells Valencia about a deaf girl in her old village.

Lola leaned forward and tapped the folded corner of her right eye. “She heard with her eyes.”

“I hear with my eyes too,” I say.

“I know,” Lola says. “I can tell.” And she winks

Each character has a problem to overcome, and it’s beautifully written. Virgil learns to find his voice, and Valencia makes a new friend, even though she adamantly said that being by herself was just fine, despite the same nightmare she has every night. Kaori gains a new business partner and further proof that the universe sets moments up just at the right time. And hopefully, maybe the Bull learned some kind of lesson after being bit by snake and told off by Virgil. We don’t see a resolution for Chet.

Hello, Universe is a wonderfully crafted novel about friendship and letting things fall into place. Kaori puts it best toward the end of the novel as Valencia is still full of questions:

When it’s time for the universe to speak, it will.

My sick brain is short on thoughts. I hope you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did!

Now for some of my other favorite quotes:

That’s the problem. People don’t want to listen to their thoughts, so they fill the world with noise.

If you didn’t have bad things, you woudn’t have good things. They would all just be things

Crying is good for the soul. It means something needs to be released. And if you don’t release the something, it just weighs you down until you can hardly move.

Until next time!

Posted in Creative NonFiction

Twenty Three Birthday Thoughts

One

Morning. Waking up to the same alarm. Maybe I should change that. Change my life. One little thing at a time. Make things seem different than they truly are.

Two

Time is interesting. Time zones, years, hours, and days. I’m a year older. A year more to learn who I truly am. Another year to make mistakes, to drown in tears or face time as it stretches on. Am I the same as I was last year?

Three

Birthday wishes creep in one by one, popping up on my phone with cheerful tones and smiling faces. They mean well and they know I’ll see it. But I’d rather see them, face to face. Hugging them closely, laughing, making new memories.

Four

I’ve never had a lonely birthday before. Will they be like this forever?

Five

This trek to somewhere other than this empty house is longer than I thought. This journey with God feels longer than I believed.

Six

I should be writing. But I’m not. I should be dreaming. But I can’t find them.

Seven

I don’t expect birthday presents as I get older. So why does it hurt when I open up a mailbox and find nothing?

Eight

It’s funny how many times I climb my stairs today. Up and down, down and up. Maybe I’m tricking myself that I’m actually going somewhere.

Nine

The villagers in my game threw my a birthday party today. Animal Crossing makes my small world feel less lonely. Funny how video game characters care about you when you don’t deserve them at all.

Ten

Escaping into fictional worlds is easier than buying a plane ticket to somewhere new. Less to worry about, less to pack. Just you, sinking into an old bungee chair, and your imagination transforming a room into a mysterious or colorful location.

Eleven

February 5

Twenty-three

2, 5, 23

Those are all prime numbers. I don’t know what that means just yet.

Twelve

Magic is real. People just forget about it the older they get. But magic is just small, waiting for people to remember it again. Maybe this year, I’ll rediscover it for myself.

Thirteen

I wish I could live in a fairy tale. Fall in love, wish on stars, go to a ball, and sing a duet, even though I’ve stopped looking. How can I fall in love when I’ve got nowhere to go?

Fourteen

Music is wonderful. It fills the empty spaces around the house. But it’s no replacement for a friend.

Fifteen

We’re not doing birthday dinner tonight. Or birthday cake. Everyone’s working late. Postponing my birthday to the next day. I wonder if I’ve ever celebrated my birthday on my birthdate.

Sixteen

Remember when we went to Disneyland for your sweet sixteen? I always do. It was one of the best things that made high school better. You were introduced to your favorite YouTuber. And you spent the day laughing, even though you were losing your voice.

Friends make everything better.

Seventeen

I picked out my own birthday cake. Wish I could’ve made my own. Made it look like Kirby. Inside jokes are the best.

Eighteen

The cursor is blinking. Only five more thoughts to go. Maybe after I can play Minecraft. Make something new in a world where anything can happen. Last time I found some treasure.

Nineteen

Or I could watch a musical. There’s a few Starkid ones I haven’t got around to watching yet. Funny how I’m always slipping away from the real world into made up ones.

Twenty

I think about online dating a lot. Maybe it’s worth a try.

But right now, I think I need a friend.

Twenty-One

I found an old list buried deep in my writing notebook. One item says “Start a new hobby.” Guess I did with drawing. Though my twenty-one year old self probably wanted to start a YouTube channel. There’s still time.

Twenty-Two

I shouldn’t cry on my birthday. I should not cry on my birthday. I will not cry on my birthday. I’ll save my tears for tomorrow.

Twenty-Three

My friends are the best. I wish I could hug them right now. But they’re all too far from me. Someone should invent teleporting or faster ways to travel. Someday. But not today.

Posted in Fiction

The Dullest Day

Part One?



Teddie sat down in the sand, leaning up against the large boulders in the morning sun light. She watched the waves crash against the shore, pulling back shells and bottles and stones that clung to the wet sand. Mop, her family’s pet dragon, sighed and curled around Teddie.

“This is the dullest day in the world, Mop,” Teddie said. “Sometimes I wish something would happen. Like a battle, or a creature attack, or an earthquake. Anything would be better than sitting around doing nothing.”

Mop lifted his head and snorted. A few bright blue sparks shot out from his snout, landing on Teddie’s sweater.

Patting her sweater to put out the small burning parts, Teddie sighed. She stood up, accidentally pushing aside the dragon. Mop snorted again and grumbled. “Sorry,” Teddie whispered. She stretched, and wandered down to the water, collecting stones. When her hands filled up, she returned to the dragon, spilling the rocks into the sand. Teddie wandered up and down the shore, until she had a big enough pile.

Once the pile was large enough, Teddie returned to the ocean, collecting some of the bottles, filling each one with water. She came back to the boulder and got to work building small sand castles out of the sand, bottles and rocks. For the rest of the morning, she created a small city, using more and more resources she found at the beach. Shells decorated houses and towers, sea glass made great windows, and kelp mapped out the roads.

Mop watched from the top of the boulder, his head moving back and forth, following Teddie. His tail swished back and forth, growing excited as Teddie added more and more to her tiny city.

Around noon, Teddie left to collect more shells. Mop stayed behind, chasing after gulls and crabs, pouncing on them when he got the chance. She wandered closer to the tide pools. Teddie kneeled down, peering into the water. A few fish darted into the shadows, kicking up some loose sand at the bottom.

Teddie gasped, noticing something shining in the afternoon sunlight. She rolled up her sleeve and shoved her hand inside the freezing winter ocean. Brushing aside some sand, she pulled on the shiny thing. As she dried her hand off, Teddie inspected her treasure: an old glass bottle with a curled up parchment, and a small silver bracelet with a rainbow of stones. Grinning, she ran as fast as she could, waving the bottle in the air.

“Mop!” Teddie cried. “I think today just became more interesting!”

Posted in 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!

Posted in 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!