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Book Review: The Writer by Cristian Mihai

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Source: Cristian Mihai.net

Plot Summary (Taken from Amazon): Jonathan Fisher is used to being no one in particular. He is such a ghostly character that CCTV cameras won’t record him. The world doesn’t need him and most certainly doesn’t want him. What he doesn’t know is that his life is on the brink of transformation.When his father dies, he realizes one thing. Being invisible isn’t such a great option.

My Review:  One of the best things about this book is its honesty. Jonathan Fisher has the outlook of  a realist, but his worldview isn’t forced on the reader at all. Instead, he just tries to make the reader think about things a little bit. It may make the reader uncomfortable, but it is part of what makes Jonathan a compelling character.

Another part of the honesty that is touching is Jonathan’s many thoughts on writing. Anyone who has struggled with putting words on paper for a living or a hobby will be able to relate.

A few favorite lines are, “Writing is not complicated. It’s all about how much of yourself you’re willing to let the reader see. If you don’t sacrifice a part of your soul, then all you write will feel empty and cold.”

In addition to the honesty, the author’s writing style was enjoyable. In between the main plot of the story are short stories that are written by the character Jonathan Fisher. These short stories felt like parts of a giant quilt.

At first, going back and forth from the main plot to a short story was confusing. After a little while,  they were appreciable and just as entertaining as the main plot.

Furthermore, the author’s creativity with the plot was a pleasant surprise. The short stories mentioned above are a part of it. The other part is reminiscent of classic writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. It provided a nice twist in a seemingly ordinary story.

Overall, this book was amazing. I recommend it to anyone looking for a short yet compelling read and anyone who is a writer.

Written by Serena Zola

November 16, 2013 at 9:54 PM

Neil Gaiman On Reading and My Two Cents

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I was making my usual rounds on the Huffington Post when I saw this link to an article about why author Neil Gaiman thinks reading is important for the future. The article is lengthy, but thought-provoking.

As an avid reader and aspiring author, I agree with every word Gaiman said. The only thing that would impress me more is if Gaiman turned this lecture into a fantasy novel. However, I want to add a few things.

First, fiction is not the only genre that can impact a reader.

As they get older, kids get exposed to other things and have to read non-fiction. If they have to do a paper on their favorite author, then they will have to read biographies or autobiographies.

If a reader enjoys an author’s work enough to read the author’s  biography or autobiography, then the reader might appreciate the author’s work even more. The same thing can apply if you read a biography or autobiography about any creative or innovative person.

By reading more about certain people, you can learn to appreciate certain aspects of life more or want to do something to improve it.

Secondly, reading fiction has a special message for some readers. That message is, “You are not alone.”

One of the worse things that you can feel is that you’re only person experiencing something. Finding a character in a fictional work going through the same thing you are is as comforting as a warm hug.

Last but not least, I think the ultimate reason reading is important is that it inspires other people to express themselves through any medium.

The short stories I have been writing as practice have been influenced by teen fiction, news stories, and a little personal experience. Some of my poetry has a similar influence, but has also been inspired by classic poets.

Without people reading books, the world wouldn’t be where it is today.  I will always be grateful for libraries, books, and the authors who write them.

Written by Serena Zola

October 18, 2013 at 4:57 PM

Book Review: Westerdale by Morwenna J Holman

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Acknowledgements: Thanks to Olympia Publishers for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Plot Summary: Vengeance, aggression, malice, spite and family feuds ring out from the pages of this book; its story is set in the wild landscape of the northern moorlands. 

Heaton Grimshaw and his two children, each so different from each other, live through this tale under their father’s gripping and terrifying presence as he reigns supreme over the frightened inhabitants of nearby Scarshead and of the neighbouring family living at the far end of the valley.

His unhappy and vicious marriage spells tragedy, as the demons in his personality are revealed and take hold of his very being.

Source: Olympia Publishers

My Review:  One of the good things about the novel was its slight twist on the classic gothic novel Wuthering Heights. One of the differences between them is that romance doesn’t play a central role Westerdale. Another impressive difference is that the story gradually goes from a tale of intense cruelty to a tale of redemption.

Besides the storyline, the characters were enjoyable. Heaton is physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. However, the gothic twist in the book made his character entertaining and eventually sympathetic.

Also, the secondary characters made reading the book more bearable when Heaton wasn’t.  For instance, Heaton’s wife Elizabeth has a brave and resilient spirit that was admirable.

Ironically, the influence of Wuthering Heights on the book was also a little overdone. While some of the twists were clever, there should have been more of them. There was one key plot point of the novel that was too predictable.

In addition, Heaton should have been developed more. There are some lines in the book that hinted at Heaton’s past, but it is never explained. It felt like the author was just using those lines to make Heaton more dramatic.

Despite its flaws, it was an engaging read. I recommend this book to any gothic literature fan.

Written by Serena Zola

September 27, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Book Review: Singing You Home by Jodi Picoult

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Zoe is a forty year-old music therapist and music lover who desperately wants to be a mother. However, she and her husband have failed to have a  child due to infertility and  failed attempts at vitro fertilization. After a third miscarriage leads to divorce, Zoe thinks she will never have a child. Then, an unexpected friendship blossoms into a new kind of love and another chance at a family. Yet, some people don’t want that kind of love or family to exist.

One of the things that hooked me to this novel was how realistic, relatable, and diverse the main and supporting characters were. They aren’t all good or all bad; they are just human beings. For instance,  Zoe, one of the main characters, is a natural in her career. Yet, she is a learner when it comes to her personal life. Furthermore, having characters of different ages (i.e. teens, children, and older adults) made the motifs and themes universal.

Another thing that is well done about the novel is the research. With the clash of homosexuality and religion being  a sensitive topic, it is easy for an author or anyone to become biased and one-sided. Although the author’s stance is made clear in the book, she presents homosexuality and religion in a fair and honest light using a variety of sources.

Besides the characters and the research, the themes and motifs made the story very poignant. Some themes such as family and identity are obvious, while music and memory as a motif are a little scattered. A personal favorite motif is music, which is connected to romance, comfort, and hope.

In addition to the themes and motifs, there is a pretty good sense of humor sprinkled throughout the book, particularly with Zoe and her partner Vanessa. Some lines made me laugh out loud! One such line was on the very last page of the book and reads, “Sammy says he was so dumb, he thought M & M’s were really W’s.”

While there are many positive aspects to the novel, there were a few loose threads at the end. I wanted to know what happened to certain supporting characters, but their fates were unresolved because the author focused only on Zoe and Vanessa. It felt like the author was in a hurry to wrap things up. Even though Zoe and Vanessa were the main focus of the book, it doesn’t feel right to have some of the supporting characters pushed aside when they were so well fleshed out.

Overall, this was an amazing read. I couldn’t put it down and now, it has become my new favorite book. I will definitely be reading other books by this author (this was my first one). I personally recommend this book to people who like adult fiction about social issues.

Written by Serena Zola

February 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Book Review: Eona

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 Eona is no longer disguised as a boy and has now become a Dragoneye. However, she can’t control her power. To make matters worse, she and her comrades are on the run from the evil Emperor Sethon. The only way to stop his terrible reign is for Eona to find the true heir to the Imperial throne: Prince Kygo.

While Eona is one hundred pages thicker than Eon, the plot is still fast-paced. There are many things that keep the book engaging. In addition to the sword-fighting that was present in the previous book Eon, you get to see more magic. One of the most extraordinary feats is the harnessing of lightning in a glass form. However, there is a dark twist to Eona’s magic that makes it difficult for her to use it heroically.

Another element that makes the story interesting is the romance. Even though this is hinted at in the previous novel, it couldn’t be developed because Eona was pretending to be a boy. Now, she is free to be passionate internally and externally about her feelings. Yet, it isn’t all roses and violets. There is a dark twist to it that is connected to her magic.

The only thing that was unlikeable about this book was its ending, which felt a little rushed and abrupt. Despite this, Eona was a great conclusion to the Eon/Eona duet. If you liked Eon, then you’ll definitely like this book.

Book Review: The House on Mango Street

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In the Latino section of Chicago lies the House on Mango Street.

In the house lives a young girl named Esperanza.

This is the story of her world.

One of the most powerful things about the House on Mango Street is the storytelling. Instead of chapters, the story is told in a series of vignettes. Think of a vignette as a verbal snapshot of a specific moment in time. With rich sensory detail and the narration of Esperanza, it is like a story and poem rolled into one.

Another notable thing about this book is its universal themes of identity and empowerment. Even though the characters in the book are Latino, the feelings and experiences that they have can resonate with anyone. In fact, the rawness and honesty in this book is similar to another well-known coming-of-age novel: The Outsiders.

While this novel does have its strengths, it also has a weakness. Besides Esperanza, there are many other characters featured. Since you only see things through Esperanza’s eyes, it can be confusing to take in her and everyone else she sees all at once. Despite this, The House on Mango Street is still a fantastic read.

Written by Serena Zola

February 29, 2012 at 10:43 AM

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