I laughed myself silly over this.
Everything You Want Me to Be is a tragic, but oh-so-true-sounding novel about Hattie Hoffman’s life and death in a small town.
Whereas I normally don’t care for books with multiple narrators, Mejia deftly uses the construct to tie the not-so-distant past with the present and how Hattie’s death came to be, what impact it has on those left behind, and how her murder is eventually solved.
The teens ring true to those we know, especially in a world consumed with fame. The digital age plays a significant role in both the events leading up to the murder and in solving it.
Touching, disturbing, and heartbreaking on many levels, you won’t be able to put down this gripping tale until the last word is read.
I recently won a giveaway on Goodreads.com for Flexible Wings by Veda Stamps.
Despite the fact this book is for tweens, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the lead character.
Here’s my quick review:
Flexible Wings is the charming story of Summer Stevenson and her struggle to find her place in a new neighborhood.
Being the daughter of a military parent is tough, but both of Summer’s parents have military backgrounds. Dad is recently retired and Mom is still serving our country. While many admire the Stevensons for their service, Summer just wants to have both parents at home and she wants to live in one place for a change. So, when her parents move the family to Valencia, California, Summer is NOT pleased. She has to leave behind the one home she really loved, has to leave behind her best friend, Esperanza, and worst of all, she’s going to have to navigate a new school and new kids.
The only shining light in the midst of this doom and gloom is – finally – the chance to join a swim team!
Stamps beautifully captures the voice of tweens and deftly illustrates the conflicting feelings of being a military dependent. Her characters are engaging and the story moves along at a good pace. Middle grade readers will easily make their way through the book, hopefully finding the strength and courage to tackle new situations and deal with bullies just as Summer does.
I look forward to reading more from Veda Stamps as she’s proven herself to be a wonderful storyteller.
Over the years, I’ve written about the impact Steve Irwin had on the lives of my family. Below is a repost of something I wrote in 2009, which still rings true. I’d like to add a few thoughts.
Steve may be gone, but we’ve witnessed new generations carrying on with his mission. Irwin daughter Bindi is officially an adult and continues to talk about the need for conservation, advocates for the animals, and has become a true global ambassador for wildlife. His son, Robert, does the same. Though his younger years perhaps limit his visibility, he aims high and reaches or exceeds that mark with pure, unbridled enthusiasm. Both Irwin kids are passionate, educated, and very well-spoken, which is a testament to not only their mother, Terri, but to the foundation of keen interest and the solid work their father did in the name of wildlife conservation.
As I mention below, my own interest in wildlife began early. My parents were the leading contributors to this, but I was also intrigued by the work of Marlin Perkins, who was pretty much all my generation had in the way of a wildlife educator/promoter. There were others who followed, of course, but that was the start of my budding curiosity. I’m so very grateful for the path Perkins paved because it brought us Steve.
I’m grateful my children grew up in the Age of Irwin. I’m grateful for the first class shows they had, to see the world through khaki colored glasses, to see wildlife conservation as something exciting and important.
For those reasons alone (though there are many more), I continue to mourn the loss of the great wildlife warrior named Steve Irwin.
I’ll never forget the year LD turned two and on Christmas morning he went crazy when he saw one of his presents was a three or four foot plastic crocodile. He immediately jumped it, covered its eyes, called for Terri (his sister given a co-starring role in his funny little world of Croc Hunterdom) to get his shirt off and wrap it around the croc’s head. Yes, LD was two and had absorbed enough Irwinisms to run his own fake rescue and relocation in our living room.
Dressed in his regular uniform of khakis (the boy wanted what he wanted), we headed over to my sister’s house for more Christmas activities. The croc came along. Anyone speaking to LD that day had to address him as Steve. To this day, there are probably a few people who were dating relatives or friends of my sister and brother-in-law who really believe this is my son’s name. We probably should have considered it, but for the simple fact that the ex’s brother carries the same name and they weren’t on speaking terms at that point. Still, my little 2 year old had made his stand about the name and his goals for the day: he would be Steve and he would be on croc patrol. No cats, people, or food would go missing if he could help it! (Okay, maybe a little food, but that was only if it was near enough to a chair he could climb up to get at it.)
And he did it all with an Australian accent. My American born baby boy sported a fair dinkum Aussie accent. Because that’s how his hero spoke.
This was how it went for two and half years, give or take. Halloween costumes were, naturally, khaki and sported fabric paint representations of Australia Zoo’s logo, with the name Steve below that. We’d attached frogs, lizards, and snakes to his shirt (all plastic, of course…our collection was immense…still is) and his shorts or pants, and his hat, although the hat was from the Norwich Gators (close as we could get at the time). Our pumpkins were carved with crocs and “Steve” and occasionally a panda or regular jack o’lantern pattern. But they still represented The Man.
When the news broke during the early hours on Sept. 4, 2006, I was awake and editing for Blogcritics.org at the time. I heard it. And everything stopped. Then I started flipping channels and it was everywhere. It didn’t seem real. Finally, I emailed my friend Pat who lived at the zoo and received the sad confirmation that it was, indeed, tragically true — Steve Irwin was gone.
What unfolded after that was beyond anything most anyone anywhere would have ever expected. Despite the popularity of the Crocodile Hunter series and other spin off shows, no one could have predicted just how widespread this man’s infectious enthusiasm reached. Straight out admiration, parodies, and even a handful of naysayers…the man, his mission, had stretched around the globe and back a million times. He made the scariest animals important, even lovable (except leeches and I’m afraid I’ll never laugh as he did about them), he made us care about the animals he encountered, taught us why they were special, why we should want them around. His plans were grand and he was making great strides in realizing many of his dreams, which ruffled a few feathers and caused some backlash, but Steve did it all for one reason: to protect the land and the animals, and give our children more than just picture books filled with photos and drawings of animals and trees we once encountered on land. Careful management could and can preserve habitats and healthy populations of animals if we can find a way to work together — from land management, husbandry, careful community planning, caring individuals, and sensible care plans from government agencies to help keep nature a viable and valuable part of our heritage.
It’s a message I was taught by Marlin Perkins, local Native Americans, and even by my parents (except snakes, but that’s a cause I took up on my own). To me, what was the point of keeping the forest if there were no animals? What was the point of loving the animals if they had no home? I learned it early and have always carried this with me. My conservationist roots run deep and likely always will. I guess my kids came by it honestly.
And then one day, Steve and Terri Irwin showed up and echoed what I’d grown up hearing. They even went far beyond what I’d learned and gave me new ideas, a new means of understanding, new hope! It spread quickly. I wasn’t the only one looking for a way to learn. It became part of our watercooler conversations.
Then we got that punch in the ol’ solar plexus we never wanted to hear. Yes, Steve Irwin was a celebrity and we often roll our eyes when a celebrity dies. But this seemed to run a bit deeper. Here was a young man actively, passionately chasing the dream of educating the world about our natural resources. He wasn’t famous for kicking a soccer ball or wearing the latest styles or releasing a record of music he had little to do with. He was out getting dirty and conducting research that continues to this day to enlighten us on the habits and lives of creatures we previously understood little about. He gave us tools to learn and set us upon a course of caring.
It’s been three (er, now 10) years and it still hurts. Thankfully, there are people everywhere who have picked up the mantle and carry on.
It may mean nothing to you, but it continues to mean a great deal to this family. Each of us, in our own manner, have found a way to carry on educating friends and strangers about the animals we encounter, the land upon which we live, the land that surrounds us, and how important it is for all of us to work together to keep it working.
Steve Irwin may be gone, but plenty of people in this world are carrying out his work, sharing the knowledge, spreading the word.
We miss you, Stevo.
I watched a lot of the Olympics this year. Despite my declaration 18 months ago, when NBC started advertising them, I couldn’t resist the urge to see what all the incredible athletes would do.
Gymnastics: A.Ma.Zing. All the way around, the women and men were fascinating to watch. I even managed to keep my eyes open for the balance beam routines, which I’ve been loathe to do in the past. As someone who has NEVER been able to do a cartwheel, I have the utmost respect for the courage it takes to careen across a mat at a high rate of speed and fling oneself in the air. The strength and flexibility are unbelievable. I am in awe. I predict Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian will take all the gold medals in 2020 Tokyo.
Swimming: What can I say about the strength and speed of the swimmers that hasn’t already been said? Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Maya Dirado, Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer…all the women gave their best in the pool. Ledecky is only 19 and just couldn’t get enough of those medals. Manuel, 20, is the first black American woman to medal in the Olympics. Sadly, NBC didn’t think to prepare a package on her journey to the Olympics, which is mind boggling because there was a big opportunity to talk about *why* we’ve seen so few black Americans in the pool. There’s *history* there that deserves to be shared. Instead, we got plenty of coverage of Phelps and Lochte*.
Diving: I am humbled by those who can stand atop a board and then fling themselves WHILE PERFORMING ACROBATICS off, toward the water, and still barely make a splash. How is it even possible?
Equestrian: I had to scout around to find coverage for the equestrian events. USA and MSNBC carried the bulk of riding and jumping events. Thank God I thought to dig around until I found the schedule! Fletch was equally happy that I found the horses. He sat in front of the TV, mesmerized by them. Then he ran through the house, scampering and leaping as if he were competing. I wish I’d thought to record him doing it!
There is such beauty in watching horse and rider strive to achieve the most difficult jumps, to navigate a course full of challenges, to place their trust in one another… it’s truly amazing.
My younger sister could have been an Olympic horsewoman. She may try to say otherwise now, but she was GOOD and she could have done it. So, not just because I have always loved horses, but because I always think of my sister… that’s why I watched, why I’ll always watch.
My only complaint with the equestrian competition is that it doesn’t include reining events. I took enough riding lessons on reining horses to know and understand the level of skill required to get a horse and rider to the point where they can achieve such smooth movement and “effortless” control. Granted, I was pretty much a hack in spite of all the time and effort I put into riding, but STILL! (Really, even though I wasn’t as good as I had hoped, I was plenty happy to be on a horse under the vast Colorado sky.)
Cycling: I tried to get into cycling more this year, but I gave up after the first event. Once upon a time, cycling was special to me. Apparently, I grew out of it. I still admire the riders, but I no longer feel the need to watch.
Finally, I have to say how disappointing I found NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Forget how underwhelming the opening ceremony was, it *might* have been better if we had been given the opportunity to see it without commercial interruptions every few minutes. Perhaps. We’ll never know at this point.
During events, the network continued to suffer from “gotta get an ad in” syndrome. Aside from swimming heats that would be over in a matter of minutes, NBC had a very difficult time sticking with coverage for more than 8 minutes. And if they did, they spent that time focusing on little of importance. Where were the lovely, heart-warming stories about the athletes overcoming adversity? Oh, sure, there were a few stories, but too much time was spent on interviewing breathless competitors or cutting back to a sports announcer, or worse… Ryan Seacrest. Am I the only one who has had enough of the guy? I do NOT get his appeal at all.
The best thing NBC did during the Olympics was bringing Leslie Jones down to Rio. Her enthusiasm was infectious and endearing. Might i suggest we replace Seacrest with her next time? Actually, let’s do that AND let another network broadcast the Olympics in the future. After this round, I’m pretty sure a community college broadcasting class could do a better job than NBC did.
Before I end this with my rant below,let me just say how much I appreciate the dedication of the athletes, their families, and the coaches. I marvel at the sacrifices these people make to chase a dream. Even for those who don’t “get sports”, they must see the beauty in chasing a dream. So few of us have the fortitude to focus as much as these athletes do. I often wonder if we made opportunities to try a variety of activities available to everyone — from the wealthiest to the poorest — if we could create more dreamers and achievers. I believe it’s possible. And I don’t think we should wait for the next Olympic games to start inspiring the next generation to go for the gold.
*Now, allow me to vent about the idiot for a moment. Lochte, despite his medals and fame, couldn’t manage to behave like an adult following the completion of his events. His actions in Rio, outside the Olympic compound, were asinine and reflected so poorly on not just America, but the athletes in general. I sincerely hope he’s punished somehow, someway. I don’t know what, exactly, but there must be consequences for his (and his fellow delinquents) actions. I’d send him back to Rio to face the music and I’d ban him from the U.S. swim team for at least the next games in 2020. Isn’t there some sort of code of conduct for these athletes? What are the repercussions of breaking the rules? This angers me in a way I find difficult to explain. I mean, I’ve had enough of athletes getting away with bad behavior, or getting a mere slap on the hand. Whether you are representing your family, school, your neighborhood, your city, state, or nation, you need to be held accountable for your actions. It’s not enough to be embarrassed or ashamed that people find out what an idiot you’ve been. There must be more done to deter others from behaving in a similar(or worse) manner.
I truly do not comprehend how we humans have allowed others to get away with all manner of crime simply because they are known for their athletic abilities (or whatever their claim to fame may be). Why? As a parent, you spend so much of your time trying to raise your children to be responsible, honest, law-abiding citizens. Those character traits should not be optional because they excel at sports, acting, academics, or anything else. In fact, the bar should be even higher for those who work so hard to achieve “greatness” in whatever field they choose that also puts them in the public eye.
At some point, were going to need to say, “enough is enough!” and demand our national “representatives” adhere to a specific level of conduct. If they don’t, they should be stripped of their awards and banned from future competition. I can’t see any other way to get the message across.
I have loved the series Ride with Norman Reedus. Loved. It.
I don’t really watch The Walking Dead, but LD does. I’m familiar enough with Reedus through that as well as some of his movie roles. I think I just missed the boat on TWD and kind of feel like I’ll catch up on it eventually. It’s not a big watching priority right now. I do, however, like watching (and make a habit of watching) shows about people exploring the world around them. So, Ride fit into my viewing queue beautifully.
The season finale was tonight and featured Peter Fonda. I was trying to hold back the tears by the end of the episode. Perfection.
I’m kinda crushing on Norman after this. Much in the same way as I crushed on Ewan McGregor after watching his Long Way series.
But back to Reedus. In addition to his exploration of his surroundings, he’s constantly photographing what he sees. (I don’t know anyone like that. Do you?) And he has a book* of his photography, which I want so badly! It goes on my wish list immediately.
I hope you can find the series somewhere, watch, and fall in love like I have. I think it’s highly likely you will.
* http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/04377.htm I can’t code links on my phone, so just follow the link.
I’ve recently spent a great deal of time doing as little as possible due to, what else, pain.
It’s crazy-making of the highest quality. Sure, I get to watch a lot of TV, movies, and the like, but it does wear off its charm rather quickly.
I’ve also been working with Fletch on his tricks. He’s doing very well. He often instigates sessions, which is a good sign he enjoys the training as much as I do.
Best movies I’ve seen recently:
Trainwreck, Pride, and the Imitation Game.
Best series: Black Sails, Vikings, Togetherness, Hap & Leonard, and Life in Pieces. Life in Pieces, the only comedy of the bunch, has been an absolute godsend. We usually end up with tears streaming down our faces, which is wonderful.
We watch so much more, but those are our favorites of the moment.
Anything else you think we need to add to the list?
No matter how you slice it, THIS is funny!
Okay, maybe we weren’t really washed away by all the rain, but it has been very rainy and it’s been lovely. California needs the rain and I happen to like it immensely.
I’ve been doing my best to try to get over the holidays and focus on getting something, anything done. A photo project? I’ve been working on gathering supplies for that, but whilst doing so I lost my studio space as the spare bedroom has become filled with stuff. Stuff that can’t fit anywhere else in the house. Stuff that just doesn’t need to be there…or here…or really anywhere. In other words, if we can’t actually use it and it has no real value, do we really need to keep it? It’s for King Arthur to decide. In the meantime, I don’t know where I can set up a studio. That means no photo project. Vicious cycle, really.
We spent the evening at KA’s daughter’s. Had pizza and salad for dinner. Played with
Baby Toddler Emma. She’s such a delight! Silly, smart, sweet.
Been gradually adding photos to 500px.com as I’ve decided Flickr is a junk heap. Half the time the site won’t display photos (you get an error message) and when it does manage to work I find myself less than pleased with the quality of work on there. As well, they did away with subscriptions and, to me, that says they don’t much care anymore about the quality or type of work that’s uploaded to the site. It’s just a repository for anything and everything from everybody. 500px is proving to be a much nicer environment for what I’d like to do with my photography. The feedback I’ve received in the past couple months has been encouraging. Not only that, but people actually take the time to seek out other artists and discover new work. That alone is enough for me to want to upload my own images there.
Oh, something else I did this weekend: I finally watched some of the Veterans Day documentaries I’d recorded. The Last Patrol was my favorite. I wept at times, cheered at other times, and spent even more time contemplating the world and the men featured in the doco. If you haven’t seen it (or a trailer), I won’t spoil it for you by interjecting my thoughts other than to encourage you to see it by whatever means available to you. Here’s an article on Guillermo Cervera to [hopefully] pique your interest.
Time for me to go try to trim more of Celia’s matted fur. I’m tellin’ you, this cat is full of dreadlocks! I spent an hour carefully cutting away bits and pieces of matted fluff. It was a bit harrowing, but we survived and there’s still more to do. It calls me.
And now I bring you my favorite Christmas song of all. It’s my favorite version and it wouldn’t be Christmas for me if I didn’t post it.
Justin Hines has been a Christmas staple around these parts for a few years now. Instead of just one song, you get three.
I love Slade. Love ‘em. I think this song has eluded me, though. “Merry Christmas Everybody!”
As a bonus, here’s a song from Shakin’ Stevens.
Extra super bonus! Bay City Rollers, y’all!
I know for certain I’ve never posted this video before. Behold: Wizzard!
Have I ever included Dean Martin before? I don’t think I have! Shame on me!