Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce - Book Review

Wolf-Speaker is the second book in The Immortals Quartet written by young-adult author Tamora Pierce. The reader follows Daine as her ability to talk to animals grows and as her adventures continue.

In Wolf-Speaker, Daine, now fourteen years old, is summoned by Brokerfang, the leader of the wolf pack she associated with after her family was killed. She rides to answer the summons along with her pony Cloud, dragon Kitten and the mage Numair. The pack tells her that the humans, in Dunlath, are cutting off all the trees, chasing away all the game and doing extensive mining, which is disturbing the wolf pack that has had to relocate.

When they arrive at Dunlath, Daine and Numair realise that something is amiss. Numair meets an old-school friend/enemy, named Tristan as well as three other mages.

Daine’s character continues to grow and she learns several valuable lessons in Wolf-Speaker, highlighting great character development. The story has lots of rising tension but not the type of rising tension that shatters your brain. There is also some sarcasm and light humour here and there to break the tension even for a few seconds.

Wolf-Speaker introduces the reader to many new creatures from Tamora Pierce’s vivid imagination, such as ‘Hurroks’, ‘a slurring of horse-hawk’, a wholly different take on the Basilisk and others.

This second installment in Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals Quartet is as exciting as the first. Also, the character descriptions at the beginning allow the reader to read each installment without having to refer to or read the previous parts.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce - Book Review

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce is the first installment in The Immortals series. The story focuses on thirteen-year-old Daine, who has ‘a knack with animals’. She speaks to them with their mind.

With, her home destroyed and her family – mother and grandfather – killed, Daine leaves with her pony, Cloud, to find work and a place to escape those who killed her family.

She becomes Onua’s assistant and helps drive ponies and horses to Tortall (the capital of the Kingdom). On the road, the two women meet new creatures and Daine discovers new abilities, but is still unable to control them. She also meets the powerful mage Numair and later becomes his student. He tells her that she possesses wild magic and teaches her how to harness it better.

We see Daine’s character develop as does her magic and her abilities – which continue in the second installment of the series Wolf-Speaker. Tamora Pierce gives a new dimension to all creatures, mortal and immortal, with many interesting additions to creatures like dragons, as well as new ones like Stormwings.

In Wild Magic, Daine goes from a child with no family and no ‘Gift’ to a wielder of wild magic. She makes many important and close friendships with people like Numair, King Jonathan, Queen Thayet and others.

As a fan of animals in general, and horses and magical creatures in particular, I could not put Wild Magic down.

In Wolf-Speaker, the second book in The Immortals series, we follow Daine as her abilities grow and as her adventures continue alongside her pony Cloud, the mage Numair and others.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Darkness & Light

A faint glimmer
In the distance,
Metallic it appears,
Capable of resistance.

Dark shadows loom,
A suppressed sun struggles
Against the gloom;
The metal begins to bloom.

The forces of darkness gather,
But light resists,
Several faint glimmers coming together;
The light persists.

In this sea of black and in contempt,
The sun gathers all its might in one final attempt,
Exploding in a dance of light,
The metal reflects it and shines bright.

A connection has been made,
Between the earth and sky;
Now the light will never fade,
Nor will it ever die.

This poem is inspired by this week's prompt SILVER. It is five sentences long ;)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Alive Again

Surrounded by tranquil earth and trees, I stood head bent, back bowing. The sinister screeches of cars on tarmac, endless rush-hour beeping, peddlers selling no one cares what… all these sounds washed away as a wave washes the shore taking all the odds and ends on the beach to the dark depths to be long forgotten.
The silence was warming, serene; it was more than welcome.
Once all the chatter and clatter had died, I inhaled deep.
It was by far the most fragrant and energetic breath I’d inhaled in a very long time. I felt life gush through my veins as though I were a half-dead human, being awakened from a long life of hypnosis and routine.
Another breath and I could soar.
I opened my eyes. The sounds of life hurled and stabbed at all my senses, but I was different.
I was alive again, ready to face and embrace the world.

This piece was written for Friday Flash Fiction Contest.
I think we all need that deep breath to reinvigorate us again.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

10 Most Influential Books

Rules: Write a status of 10 books that have influenced you one way or another. Don't think about them for too long. The titles don't have to be 'famous', 'correct' or 'great' as long as they are titles that have affected you personally.
(Tag 10 of your friends including myself so I can see your list).

القواعد: اكتب استيتس بعشر كتب عاشت معك بطريقة أو بأخرى. لا تستغرق في التفكير أكثر من دقائق قليلة ولا ترهق نفسك في التفكير أكثر من اللازم. لا ينبغي أن تكون العناوين "الصحيحة" أو "العظيمة"، بل العناوين التي لمستك شخصيا. ثم اعمل تاج لعشرة أصدقاء أنا من بينهم حتى أرى قائمتك:
(since it was in the original)

I was tagged in a friend's Facebook status and thought it's worthy of a blog post since I ignored the overthinking bit or slightly ignored it for the words flowed with the choices.

1- The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 
(I won't be picky for although I prefer some books to others, the whole series continues to have an imprint on my life)

2- My Lady Mage by Alexis Morgan 
(It was the first time I picked a book based on the beauty of the cover - and of course after reading the blurb a dozen times but without researching it on Goodreads. Also, it was the first novel I read in the paranormal romantic fantasy genre and I loved it!)

3- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 
(Simply because I read it years after reading The Lord of the Rings and it impressed far more. It is comic, adventurous and above all romance free! I adore it!)

4- 1/4 Gram by Essam Youssef
(Though I read this several years ago, it continues to be one of my all-time favourites for the massive amount of knowledge and messages it carries. Also, because it gave me insight into a world I never thought I'd care to know or knew how it worked).

5- The Inheritance Saga by Christopher Paolini
(Although I still have book 4 to read, this saga has some interesting bits and dragon battles and feats. It gave me an idea to a story I started working on and should continue and what can I say, it has dragons!) 

6- Macbeth by William Shakespeare
(I loved this play and its dark flowing imagery.)

7- Shiri by DS Taylor 
(It was a tough read for me but I loved the protagonist)

8- Before the Throne/أمام العرش by Naguib Mahfouz 
(The first novella I read for Mahfouz and by far his best. It made me want to read more history, both modern Egyptian and Pharoanic history)

9- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling 
(Coz it serves as a fresh reference for any fantastical creatures)

10- The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot 
(This book would never have made it here, if it weren't for Aamena Amin Zayed who reminded me of it. The reason The Mill on the Floss secured a place on this list is because I vow to NEVER write a book like it, where I abhorred ALL the characters, particularly the protagonist; where the first 5 books moved in slow motion then the final 2 moved super quick and the reader felt agonised and cheated).

I know I shouldn't have written all that but when I saw The Mill on the Floss on Aamena's list, I felt I had to share the reasons behind my choices.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Entitlement - Book Review

Entitlement by Mike Worley is a fast-paced crime novel.

An Erica Roberts goes missing and detective Angela Masters has a gut feeling that it is more than just a woman who disappeared – and she’s right. Erica is said to have been on her way to break up with her boyfriend, lawyer Gordon Kennaly, the day she disappeared. The novel follows Angela as she follows small leads on Erica’s disappearance and eventually takes the case to court.

The most interesting thing about Entitlement is that the prime suspect, Kennaly, is a lawyer. So there is a lot of focus on how he seeks to bend the law to get what he is entitled to and plans concocts a crime and his way out of it.

The theme of “entitlement” dominates the novel. The reader gets excited every time the word ‘entitle’ and its variations pop up, like here He was used to intimidating people to get his way because to him, he was entitled to have what he wanted, any time he wanted it.” (p. 81).

The prime suspect in Erica’s disappearance his Gordon Kennaly, her lawyer boyfriend, who is selfish and sees himself above everyone and everything. When the reader first meets Kennaly and his secretary Jane Braun, we see how her response of ‘Gor-then ‘Mr. Kennaly’ indicates a not-so-professional relationship between them.

Jane Braun is blindly in love and infatuated with her boss Gordon Kennaly and would do anything for him. She is very jealous but nonetheless very loyal. It becomes clear that Kennaly’s relationship with Erica was not as bright and sunny as he had told Angela. An example of Jane’s idiotic-blindness is seen during the trial. She follows Kennaly’s orders without thinking how they would harm her or the trial itself. “Unknown to the prosecutor, or Braun’s own lawyer, Kennaly had surreptitiously passed a message to Braun through Morton two weeks before the trial began. Wear that special outfit that you know I love, and tell them everything when you testify.(p. 140)

Unlike CSI and other criminal-case series on television, Entitlement shows the perpetrators’ conversations, actions and reactions. So, the reader sees everything from the criminal’s point of view and how they plan to get ahead of the police and the law. For instance, we see the conversation between the lawyer and his secretary, the feeling of dislike for them increases as we see their dishonesty. Also, unlike television series, the mystery does not end at solving the kidnap-and-murder case but goes beyond that to the court, where there is a lot of play between attorneys and witnesses. Kennaly is an experienced lawyer and his secretary, Jane, is a blind and infatuated follower, who would do anything for him - even if it costs her her life and freedom. She strives to please a psychopathic murderer so long as it impresses him and keeps her in his favour.

Worley’s characters become more interesting when compared and contrasted to one another. The reader cannot help but compare Elisa Montgomery, the lawyer handling the case on behalf of the District Attorney’s office, with detective Angela Masters. Montgomery makes a bad plea bargain, for the state, when she offers Jane Braun a one-year jail time. It is stated several times that Montgomery is not a fan of the detective; though it is clear that Masters has the stronger character, thus pushing Montgomery into the shadow.

Although narration in Entitlement is in the third person, we see the different characters' perspectives in the use of language to describe situations or other characters.

The short paragraphs and chapters add to the quickness of the novel. A reader can easily finish the novel in a day or two.

Entitlement is by all means a five-star crime novel. I couldn’t put it down!

For more about Mike Worley's Angela Masters series, follow him on Twitter and check out his website.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Author Victoria Popescu Answers Qs about Life, Her Books and More

Today, Nadaness In Motion is hosting author Victoria Popescu. Check out the interview and my 4-star review of her book Twin Magnolia: A Soul Call

Q: First, tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Romania, where I spent the first twenty-two years of my life. I traveled greatly for the following nineteen years and lived in the United States, New Caledonia and France.
I currently live in France with my husband and our two boys. I am passionate about living the life of your own true dreams or living by the truth within. I feel that it is the path to living life to its deepest and achieving complete happiness.

Q: What first inspired you to write Twin Magnolia: A Soul Call?
Some people experience a deep need to be with their twin souls- their other half. The longing for the other is so intense that they don't seem to find peace within themselves until they connect or reconnect again. They experience the greatest love one can ever encounter and it feels as if they came to life in an agreement to accomplish something together. This is what mostly inspired me; then, there was also my intention to share information on healing and touch a bit on the importance of healing the soul.

Q: As a reflexologist and healer, what exactly do you do? Are you a much younger version of Tarana from your novella?
I do the kind of healing Tarana does. I use my energy field, bringing energy in through my energy centers, or chakras, then send it out through my hands. During a reflexology session, I work primarily by applying pressure with my thumbs to specific points and areas on feet. These areas and reflex points correspond to different body parts, organs and systems. Working this way, we help create an inner balance that is essential for the body to function properly and effectively.

Q: How much time did you actually spend in Hawaii to be able to write your novella?
Only a few weeks, but I have a very detailed memory for places and people. I wrote Twin Magnolia- A Soul Call much later.

Q: Apart from the chakras mentioned in Twin Magnolia: A Soul Call, what are your favorite colors? Which lift your spirit and which bring it down?
To me, it's not a question of lifting the spirit or bringing it down but rather speaks more about helping to restore or recharge a particular energy center, or chakra, in order to feel good throughout the day. I love pretty much all colors. The ones that I mostly wear lately are blue, pink, amethyst and different shades of green.

Q: I haven’t read your first book Anita - A Journey Through Love but from the blurb I feel it is a bit similar to Twin Magnolia: A Soul Call. Are they similar?
They have some common points--love and healing, for instance--but the stories are differently oriented. While one character is overwhelmed with love, the other one is in need of experiencing love.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Anita - A Journey Through Love?
Anita- A journey Through Love tells the story of 32-year-old Anita, who goes in search of herself while healing from an autoimmune disorder. On her journey she experiences unconditional love after falling in love with a man she can't be with--or so she thinks--and learns to love herself. She also learns to accept and let go of certain things as she realizes that these might never happen and she's wasting her life on a goal she may not be able to achieve. She finds greater meaning in life by finding her true path. She's convinced that there can't be more, until she discovers that certain lives are linked across time.

Q: Are you currently working on other books? If yes, what is it/are they?
I've been working on my third novel lately. Unfortunately, I have to leave it aside for a while, as my life is quite busy at the moment. I'd definitely touch again on soul matters, as that focus is partially inspired by a rather incredible experience I had ten years ago when I saw my body next to me, or perhaps I should say that I saw my body through the eyes of my soul.

Q: What is your favorite reading genre?
Women's fiction and inspirational, but I do enjoy reading other genres as well.

Q: If you could experiment with any genre, what would it be?
I am thinking of writing for Youth someday.

Q: What did you do before becoming a reflexologist?
I worked mainly as a fashion store manager and had a short experience working at a bank. While living in Boston I worked for Jessica McClintock in bridal and special occasion dresses. Her fabulous gowns inspired Claudia's dresses in Twin Magnolia- A Soul Call. I also worked for two French brands. That's how Paris became part of the story in Anita- A Journey through Love.

Q: Since the book deals with the soul, how come you didn’t mention chocolate? Isn’t it like food for the soul?
I'd say that a vivid need for chocolate is an indicator that there's a much greater need for something else; there’s some deep issue awaiting resolution. If we have chocolate, we calm that need and the soul will get quiet for a while, but we're still in need of chocolate eventually. If we don't have chocolate right away, the soul will get wild, and in its revolt will drag us to where the real problem is, so we can fix it--at least partially. Now, once the issue resolved, we can still have chocolate if we want to but it would feel more like a treat than a necessity.

Q: Healing with colors: if the chakras have the same colors for everyone, does that mean the same colors would have the same effect on different people? Would orange, for instance, have the same effect on a man and a woman? How do you determine which color suits who?
The same color should have the same effect on a man and a woman as long as they have a common need to rebalance the chakra associated with that particular color. Some people are more receptive than others; in this case the intensity of the effect is different. I usually suggest wearing a specific color or colors after identifying which chakras need more balance. The desire to wear a specific color often speaks about a need to rebalance a certain chakra or keep it balanced when interacting with other people, especially groups, as there is a higher energy exchange. If we allow our intuition to guide us and are not afraid of making the wrong choice, we end up wearing the color that we need the most every day.

Q: At what point did you decide to write Twin Magnolia? How did you connect the tree to the soul?
I first started to write, then the image of a twin magnolia tree kept coming to my mind. It gave me this idea of one unity that splits into two, going on individually but having the same base, pretty much like twin souls divided from one soul. Magnolia is believed to be one of the most ancient flowering plants, existing even before bees, so in its original form before pollination. There is also this idea of synchronicity as twin souls wait sometimes several lifetimes before they unify again.

Q: Why did you opt for writing in English rather than French (since I believe you speak the language well & have lived in France for sometime)? Do you think this type of novel would not appeal to a French audience?
I wrote it in english because that's the way it came; I didn't really try to understand why. I do speak French quite well and I believe my book can have a great success in France. It will definitely be available in French sometime in the future, just don't know when yet.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I'd like to say that we should never underestimate the power of the soul. It is strong enough to completely mess up our original plans for life and change our lives in ways we never expected. Yet, if we listen to our soul's needs and fully allow it to express itself as we go through life, without resisting changes, it is our perfect guide to achieving and maintaining the greatest happiness of all.

Check out Victoria Popescu's website and follow her on Twitter.