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My Ten Influential Books

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 I checked my email a few days ago to find that A Wordless Blogger has tagged me in her “Ten Influential Books Tag” post!  The post was originally inspired by the list posted by Leah’s blog The Perks of Being A Bookworm.

I decided to do my own ten influential books post since I have not done any book related posts since March. I have been busy with schoolwork, writing poetry, and applying for internships. By the way, I will be interning for the online black women’s magazine For Harriet this summer and taking classes, so if I don’t post for a few months, that’s why.

1. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

This book was my introduction to young adult literature. I read it for the first time in 7th grade for class and then again in 8th grade. By the time high school started, I had read the book three times and felt a strong kinship with the book’s narrator Ponyboy Curtis. Sometime before I graduated high school, I reread this book again and decided that I wanted to become a young adult author. To this day, if I get frustrated with writing, I can reread The Outsiders and feel so much better.

2.  In Montgomery and Other Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

When I took English Literature 1101 or 1102 in community college, I read a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks called “We Real Cool” and was amazed at how the poem was written and its message. This caused me to check out this collection of poems and read even more of Gwendolyn Brooks’ work. There was a particular section of the book called “Children Coming Home” which contained poems from a book of the same name. I’ve tried finding it, but no to avail. Anyway, Gwendolyn Brooks was the first black poet to ever inspire me and show me that I could use poetry to write about issues that I cared about.

3.  Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

In 4th grade, some kid brought this book to class and a woman read it to us in the library. The woman may have been his mother, but I can’t remember for sure. Somewhere between this reading and that same kid bringing Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire to class, I started reading The Harry Potter series and a love of fantasy fiction was born.

4.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Not only this was the first classic book I read and liked, but this is also a book I have read in three forms: graphic novel (3rd grade), children’s illustrated book (7th grade), and the original book (8th grade). In addition to The Outsiders, this book was another security blanket in my teen years whenever I felt like my life sucked. Jane Eyre gave me hope that someday I would find true happiness.

5. Tears of A Tiger by Sharon M. Draper

This was the first young adult book I read that was by an African-American author and it made me look for more books in the same vein. I found in a classroom of my 9th grade literature teacher, who kindly let me borrow the book to read.

6. The Phantom of The Opera by Gaston Leroux 

Read this book during my first or second year of college because I wanted to know what the big deal was with the musical. Although I would learn that the musical and the book were completely different, this book still got me interested in reading gothic literature.

7.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This book taught me that sometimes the best characters don’t have to be likeable.

8. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

This extremely long, beautifully written book came to me the same way Phantom of The Opera did. It taught me not to judge someone by their circumstances of their life, but by what they have done with their life.

9.  Looking For Alaska by John Green

This book taught me that even the most attractive girls can be messed up inside. I’ve read it a few times and it has always haunted me afterwards. It’s also my favorite John Green book.

10. The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story: Michael Jackson by J. Randy Taraborrelli 

I read this book a few months after MJ died. Before I read this, I was a bored MJ fan who was obsessed with almost anything having to do with Michael Jackson. After finishing this book, I decided to never again become obsessed with any celebrity’s life beyond their profession, including Michael Jackson. This book showed me that a celebrity is NOT your personal freak show to gawk at every time they do something.

I now tag YA? Why Not, Quinn’s Book Nook, and Blogs-of-A-Bookaholic. Please link back to Leah’s original post when you do your top ten.

Written by Serena Zola

May 13, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Posted in Random Stuff

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Thoughts on Music and Music Movie Recommendations

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Since I last blogged on here a month ago, I’ve discovered a lot of new music and have enjoyed many music films. Since I am happy and lazy (I’m on Spring Break), I’m going to talk about how much I love music in general and give several brief music movie recommendations.

When I say I love music, I mean music in general. In three years, I’ve gone from just listening to alt. rock and soundtracks to having an eclectic music taste. I have my likes and dislikes, but I understand that every genre is connected.

On a post similar to this one, I said that my discovery of indie-rock was me coming full-circle with my music taste. I was wrong. Afro-punk is the genre that has brought me full-circle, not only with my music taste but also with my own life.

If had I known about this genre when I was feeling like an outsider in high school, then I would have found the perfect genre to listen to. Then again, I might not have the eclectic music taste I have now.

Afro-punk is a music genre and contemporary movement filled with black punk bands and black alternative music acts. As much as I’ve enjoyed finding music in this genre, I’ve also found more classic blues and jazz music that I like.

For instance, Billie Holiday before the 1950s.  During those years, her voice wasn’t marred by drugs yet. I love it because it sounded youthful, sad, and sweet. I love her slower songs the most because the way she stretched out the words made you want to savor her voice. One of my favorite songs is “Am I Blue?”

Another voice I’ve found I enjoy a lot is Sarah Vaughan. Her voice is soothing and sweet and it warms you up like a fire. Like with Holiday, I like her slower songs that were done when she was young.  One of my favorite songs is “Autumn in New York”.

Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday are now my favorite classic female blues and jazz singers.  I wish more young people could appreciate old music in any genre.

Without blues and jazz, we wouldn’t have rock music. Without classical music, none of my favorite soundtracks would exist.  Without old music, we wouldn’t have new music.

One of the most enjoyable things about appreciating music is watching music films. Here are the films that I’ve watched this past month that I recommend:

The Billie Holiday Story (BBC Documentary)-  I loved Billie Holiday even more after I saw this. This film shows her not as a victim to drugs and a sad childhood, but as a talented woman who had strengths and weaknesses.  Watch it here.

New Orleans (1947)- This film features Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. The plot is corny, but the jazz music makes the film worth watching. It’s on DVD, but I also found it on YouTube here (ignore the Portuguese subtitles).

Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll! (1987)- Part rock concert and part biography, this film honored the life and 50th birthday of rock musician Chuck Berry. Features appearances from Little Richard, Etta James, Keith Richards, and more. Watch it on Hulu here.

A Band Called Death (2013)- This film tells the story and new-found popularity of Death, the first black punk band. It is available to watch on Netflix. If you enjoy the film, their 1976 album Death For The Whole World To See is worth listening to as well.

Yellow Submarine (1968)- I watched this for the first time in February in honor of The Beatles 50th anniversary. It stars The Beatles in an animated film where they go to Pepperland to free it from the evil Blue Meanies. The animation and the music are great. This is a good film to watch as a family. Watch it on DailyMotion here.

#Ask The Fangirl Questions

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Found this via Jeyna Grace’s blog and thought it would be fun to do! Here are the questions and my answers!

  1. P!nk (the singer)
  2. An anime series collectively called A Certain Magical Index  
  3. Have more than one favorite. One of them is Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.
  4. Again, I have more than one favorite. One of them is Janelle Monae.
  5.  Lindsey Stirling 
  6. Haven’t been to one yet.
  7. Have quite a few. One of them is The Perks of Being A Wallflower.
  8. Not sure I have one yet.
  9. Didn’t have any until recently, but I prefer not to answer this one.
  10. Yep and it sucked but I kept liking what I liked.
  11. Have a lot. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is the first one that popped into my head though.
  12. When it comes to one that is still airing, it is Legend of Korra.
  13.  Oh, so many fandoms to choose from! Well, my favorite Harry Potter character is Hermione Granger.
  14. Fan-fiction (reading a long (but great) Legend of Korra one right now)
  15. Waiting forever for new episodes to air (*cough* Once Upon A Time *cough*)
  16. Depends if I’m nearby or not.
  17. Um, no. 
  18. I wish.
  19. Have a couple of Sailor Moon posters, a Harry Potter  snow globe and Harry Potter Uno Cards. 
  20. Finding out that there was a fictional book featuring fan-fiction called Fangirl.

Written by Serena Zola

January 31, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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Random Post: A-Z Book Survey Answers

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Credit: Krys from Black n’ Write

I was doing my daily rounds on my WordPress Reader and I saw this post by Black ‘n’ Write about this book survey. Being a book nerd in need of something fun and different to do, I decided to fill it out!

Author You’ve Read The Most Books From:

I’m pretty sure it’s Lemony Snicket but let me go to Goodreads and make sure. Yep, I’m right.

Best Sequel Ever:

There are many authors I can think of,  but in order to avoid mentioning the same author twice, I’ll say every book after Alanna: The First Adventure in the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.

Current Reading:

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. This could take a while (curse you slow pacing!).

Drink of Choice While Reading:

I never drink anything while reading except water to keep myself hydrated.

E Reader or Physical Book?


Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School:

Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders. Don’t care if he is a Greaser; his love of literature and his deep view of things is so wonderful!

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:

The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. These books exposed me to great supernatural bonds and powers and a kick-ass heroine. Not to mention, a better vampire series than Twilight.

Hidden Gem Book:

Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi. Would have never known about this book without the site MyAnimeList and the author’s request for reviewers.

Important Moment in Your Reading Life:

Sometime when I was in community college, I realized I could appreciate other genres besides teen fiction and fantasy. I discovered other genres and had fun doing it.

Just Finished:

The last book I finished reading was The Korean Word for Butterfly by James Zerdt.  It was good, but it could have wrapped up better and had less spelling errors.

Kind of Books You Won’t Read:

Mystery. I have no patience for every detail in a story about solving a crime.

Longest Book You Ever Read:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Not sure of the exact page number, but I know it’s over a thousand pages long.

Major Book Hangover Because of:

The Diary of Anne Frank. When I read it the first time, I cried at the end. Her spirit will haunt me forever.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

One, but only because my room is small. I also have manga and books piled in a drawer.

One book you have read multiple times:

The Outsiders by S.E, Hinton. It’s one of my favorite books and my inspiration as an aspiring young adult author 🙂

Preferred Place to Read:

Leaning against a furry purple back rest on my bed in my room

Reading Regret:

None that I can think of.

Series You Started and Need to Finish:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I have the entire series in one movie-edition.

Three of Your All-Time Favorite Books:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Tears for Water by Alicia Keys (yes, the singer)

The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins

Unapologetic Fan Girl For:

The Harry Potter Series. I mean come on, this was my childhood and my introduction to fantasy fiction and mythology!

Very Excited for This Release More Than All Others:

Meh. It’s been a little while since I got excited about a new book release…

Worse Bookish Habit:

Finding excuses not to read a book when it gets slow. Did I mention I’m currently reading such a book?

X-Marks The Spot (Start at the top-left of your shelve and count to the 27th book):

My 27th book (if you count the books stacked on top books) is The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference by Writers Digest. I bought this for reference purposes and possible inspiration.

Your Latest Book Purchase;

Ha! I don’t really buy regular books anymore (or manga for that matter). However, the last book I bought was a manga titled Magic Knight Rayearth II Omnibus Edition. I bought it on my b-day back in February so I could have the complete Magic Knight Rayearth series ^_^

ZZZ Snatcher Book ( A book that kept you up wayyy late)

It was only half an hour past my bed-time but the book that did this to me was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.

Written by Serena Zola

August 14, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Announcement: I Will Be Posting Erractically

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Dear Readers,

Starting this summer my posting schedule will be unpredictable. There will be times I post one week and then not post at for a while. This is due to the fact that I am focusing more on my studies, writing, or some other personal thing. Please understand that as much as I love blogging, I have other things that need my attention.

Have a great summer and happy blogging,

Serena Zola

Written by Serena Zola

June 3, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Posted in Random Stuff

What Songs Would Be On A Mixtape That Describes You?

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I’m currently reading Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. This is the first novel I’m reading by this author and it’s really good so far. I’m loving the way the author incorporates music into the story. There is a question the main character, Zoe, asks that intrigued me personally as a music lover: “What songs would be on a mixtape that describes you?”

I thought about the question and the music that I enjoy and came up with twelve songs.

  1. Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson
  2. Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls–
  3. Blackbird by The Beatles–
  4. Paperback Writer by The Beatles–
  5. Rebel Rebel by David Bowie–
  6. I Love Rock n’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts-
  7. Castle of Glass by Linkin Park–
  8. La Vie Boheme A by the Movie Cast of RENT (lyrics in description)–
  9. The Boy Who Drank Stars by Joe Hisaishi (look at the video description and go to track twenty-five; couldn’t find a video for the song by itself)–
  10. Aang Memorial Island by The Track Team
  11. Raise Your Glass by P!nk–
  12. Nobody Knows- P!nk (lyrics in description)

So dear readers, what say you to this? What songs that describe you would be on a mixtape?

Written by Serena Zola

February 21, 2013 at 8:35 PM

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