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Book Review: Shrapnel by Stephanie Lawton

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Plot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): It’s been six years since Dylanie and her family visited a Civil War site and the place came alive with cannon fire. Problem was, no one could hear it but her.

Now she’s sixteen, her dad’s moved out, her mom’s come out of the closet and Dylan’s got a spot on Paranormal Teen, a reality TV show filming at historic Oakleigh Mansion. She’ll spend a weekend with two other psychic teens—Jake and Ashley—learning how to control her abilities.

None of them realized how much their emotional baggage would put them at the mercy of Oakleigh’s resident spirits, or that they’d find themselves pawns in the 150-year-old battle for the South’s legendary Confederate gold. Each must conquer their personal ghosts to face down Jackson, a seductive spirit who will do anything to protect the gold’s current location and avenge a heinous attack that destroyed his family.

My Review: One of the best things about this book is the characters. Dylanie is a kick-butt and sassy girl with cool powers.  Jake is funny and also has cool powers. Ashley is a diamond in the rough who really comes through during the climax of the book.  Also, the emotional baggage they have made them relatable.

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was how the author weaved in difficult issues into the plot, especially in Dylan’s case. There is not a lot of teen fiction with the personal issues Dylan has and the author handled them very realistically.

In addition, the paranormal aspect to the book made it a page-turner. The fact that the author chose different psychic abilities for each character made the book unique. Also, weaving in history to the storyline made it seem almost real.

The only flaw in the book is the character Jackson and his interactions with Dylan.  Given what his character is, his interactions with Dylan didn’t make sense and should have been explained.

Overall, this was a great book. If you want a creative paranormal story with good characters, this is the book for you.

Written by Serena Zola

October 11, 2013 at 10:52 PM

A Reflection on My Music Taste and Music in General

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Yesterday, I became a fan of Florence and The Machine. This is the first indie rock band I’ve ever liked. It also means that I’ve finally cracked and decided to explore indie music.

I’ve seen “mainstream music sucks” comments online for a while now. I’ve shaken my head because there are a few gems in mainstream music worth listening to.

Yet, eight years ago I thought I was totally awesome because I only listened to alternative rock and a couple of soundtracks.

Now that I’ve entered the world of indie rock, I feel I’ve come full circle with my music taste and become wiser with exploring music.

In fact, I don’t think that I could have become a fan of Florence and The Machine without the eclectic music taste I gained.

As of today, here is what I listen to: pop, rock, blues, jazz, classical, world music, techno, scores, and a little rap, funk, soul, and r &b.

The only reason my taste has developed like this is that I was somewhat forced to do some research in the past and present for a class.  After that, I became naturally curious.

Before I became a FATM fan, I thought I didn’t need to get into indie music. I thought that because I had an eclectic music taste, I’d never be bored with the music I already had.

However, I missed being a fan of a band that was good, fun, different, current, and still active.

After I became a fan of Janelle Monae then Janis Joplin, I realized that there are some musicians who are one-of-a-kind. I found myself wanting to hear music from someone similar to them and realizing that there wasn’t anyone like them.

I also realized that wasn’t a bad thing.

The reason that today’s music isn’t great is because most people sound like someone else. Furthermore, the reason one musician sounds like another is because they embody what sells.

When a  truly talented and passionate musician comes along, they are underrated or tailored to what sells.  It depends on if the musician lets themselves be fitted or not. It also depends on the circumstances the musician is in.

Someone who has an ideal musical and/or personal image is more easily controlled by record companies and understood by the general public.  In contrast, someone who doesn’t have an image is more likely to only appeal to certain people.

When it comes to music that has lyrics, I appreciate the musician more if they don’t have an image. If they are just being themselves, then that makes their music more special to me.

It seems like today’s world is so messed up that some people want something normal to make them feel good.  Things like being sexy, being young, and being American are norms that have been around since I was born.

You’d think most  people would be bored with that.

It shouldn’t matter if  a hundred or a million people like the music you create or listen to. It shouldn’t matter what most people like or what’s normal.

If more people were willing to be an indie person, then the music would be better.

Written by Serena Zola

October 6, 2013 at 3:54 PM

Movie Review: Bully (2012 Documentary)

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Source: Wikipedia
Rating: PG-13

Plot Summary:  Kelby Johnson is an openly gay girl ostracized for her sexual orientation. Ja’Meya Jackson is suffering the consequences of pulling out a loaded gun to scare her peers . Alex Libby is socially awkward and pays for it verbally and physically. Parents Kirk and Laura Smalley and Tina and David Long are picking up the pieces after the suicides of their children. Although all of these people are in different states, they all share one painful thing: bullying.

My Review: One of the best things about this documentary is how realistically it captures bullying from the victim’s point of view. The victims are a diverse group of people who represent different circumstances. Also, it was good to see how the people around the victims reacted to what was going on. By sharing the voices of those around victims of bullying, it shows how bullying can affect an entire community rather than just one person.

Another thing the film does well is capturing the reactions of officials who are supposed to assist students and parents dealing with bullying. One particular scene involves Alex’s assistant principal dealing with a victim and a bully in the hall. While these two students aren’t the main characters of the film, the interaction between them and the assistant principal is shocking. Every scene like this challenges the viewer mentally and emotionally.

While the film makes a great attempt to capture bullying on film, there were a few flaws. One flaw is that the viewer never sees things from the bully’s point of view. Even though it is extremely important that bullying have their stories told, excluding the bully’s point of view makes the film bias. Also,  the film makes the connection between bullying and suicide too simple. It is possible that other factors could have led to the suicides depicted and the film should have reflected that. Together, both of these flaws cause the film to scratch the surface of bullying instead of providing a deeper view.

In addition, the film could have done a better job showing the aftermath of the young main characters. Kelby’s aftermath was fine, but there should have been more to Alex’s and Ja’Meyah’s. If a young person experiencing bullying saw this film, then they might feel lost at the end. it should have shown how to survive bullying without hurting yourself or others.

Despite the film’s flaws, the film is a powerful view of bullying. I recommend it to anyone involved with children and anyone experiencing bullying.

Written by Serena Zola

August 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM

The Music Boxes

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Many people young and old have been complaining about the sad state of today’s music. While I do agree that some of today’s music isn’t great, I think music still shines with artistic brilliance today. Why? Because I have gone beyond one genre, one time period, and one country to find music that I love.

When some people think of crappy music today, they think of either pop or rap. Most people don’t realize that pop and rap have sub-genres that they may find enjoyable because they think that a music genre has just one sound.  For example, pop can have a rhythm and blues sound as seen here:


Furthermore, pop can have a rock sound.


Also, rap can have a rock sound:


It is these songs that bring me to my next point: time period. These songs are old, but some people who have never heard them may like them anyway. If that’s the case, then why just focus on listening to the latest music? If it’s because everyone seems to be doing it, then why follow the crowd? Be an individual and listen to whatever music you want. You never know what you’ll discover on your own. You might find you like music from before you were born, something like this:


The previous song has another important point: it came from a British rock band. Most people today seem to think that just because we live in America, we have to listen to American music all the time.We only call American music “American” because we are in America. Actually, we all come from many different ethnic backgrounds. These differences are something that should be celebrated in music and beyond. Fortunately, there are some musicians that have already been doing this:


We need to keep an open mind when listening to music. Just because we live in a certain time period,  a certain country, or prefer a certain sound, doesn’t mean there isn’t more to what we hear.

Written by Serena Zola

November 13, 2011 at 12:36 PM

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