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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

 

 

Tarra and Bella is an inspiring tale of a genuine friendship between a courageous Golden Retriever and a loyal Asian Elephant. The unusual pair met in an instant moment of shared acceptance. Basically, Tarra (Retriever) felt comfortable enough to sleep next to Bella (Elephant) one day. After Bella woke up perplex by the situation, she simply stood over Tara and began her day as normal.  Surprise! Tarra followed her every step of the way, and Bella welcomed her new companion’s company.

To no surprise, Bella actually had a hard time interacting with the other elephants in the reservation. She does have an unusual upbringing. This Elephant was brought up in the zany world of show biz where she worked hard as an animal actress. As she grew older, Bella’s caretakers at the time allowed the unique Elephant to retire in a simple life at a reservation in Tennessee. Due to Bella’s background, it is only expected for her to find a best friend in stray dog. (I am sure Tarra had many adventures of her own.)

Tarra and Bella may look different, but they share the same interesting spirits. (I will even say that they were connected in their “past lives,” but for the sake of this report, I will not deeply explore this possibility…at least for now). The friends cared for each other, even in the worst possible situation. Once Tarra sprained her leg, Bella waited patiently next to her mate until help arrived.

 

 

Sadly, Tarra experienced another unfortunate event. She was brutally attacked by coyotes, and Bella carried her bruised body back to their regular play location. Tarra eventually died, and Bella was present for her funeral to mourn for the lost of her dearest friend. The touching story of Tarra and Bella displays the simple fact that you can find companionship in others even if they do not look like you – just focus on the beauty of the spirit.

 

It is very difficult to locate pure a friendship because many people, including myself, tend to have a hazy fantasies of how life is supposed to be, how they are supposed to be, and how others are supposed to be. Through this fantasy, most find friends who maintain the perception of themselves. Just to put it simply, most use relationships for selfish purposes, which explains why it is hard to locate a genuine friendship.

 

 

Here’s a wonderful example. In the video above, Audrey O’day and Aundrea Fimbres met in a challenging competition to join a girl band called Danity Kane. O’day and Fimbres shared the same love and respect for each other as they strive for the same goal. Then a problem arrived. They both get accepted in the band by music producer Sean “Puffy” Combs, but sadly as the group becomes popular, the ego took over. The world of mainstream music is CUT THROAT.

At that time, both ladies have different perceptions of how to handle fame. Since neither is willing to conform to the other’s fantasy, the friendship is doomed. This is a common situation for many people; it happened to me as well. There is ALWAYS hope though. O’day and Fimbres learned from their faults and joined forces again to create a song that perfectly displays their downfall. So, I do appreciate their 360 turn-around.

 

 

From the wise words of this pop song, I will strive to tame the ego and achieve beautiful friendships like the bond between Tarra and Bella.

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In this journey, Samuel experienced a series of unfortunate events from witnessing the death of his parents to being trapped in a heartless forest in Norway. Of course we know the protagonists of modern children’s literature are almost always granted happy endings, so the question is…What extraordinary events will fall upon Samuel, and how will he escape the forbidden forest?

 

A Few Metaphorical Messages

 

Death

Death is a running motif that strings the plot together, and based on the author’s previous book titled The Dead Fathers Club, Matt Haig is all too familiar with this heavy subject matter. Haig acknowledges how death robs you of your present. With no warning, with no guarantee, with no sympathy, death rips apart your current reality and rebuilds another one, and you are expected to sit there and accept it. If that is not enough, the aftermath of this horrific experience can make you feel disconnect with the world around you, which inevitably causes many to challenge the meaning of life, if any, in a state of grief. Samuel and his sister Martha experience these symptoms. Samuel becomes extremely negative, seeing everything and everyone as pointless, and Martha becomes mute. Based on the siblings current state; Samuel and Martha have a few choices to make. They can remain how they are, they can try to find happiness, or they can let the trauma overrule their life. The latter is exactly what happened to Professor Horatio.

 

The Most Devastating Outcome of Death

Haig made sure that Samuel and Horatio’s back stories were parallel to each other because Horatio’s current state could have been Samuel’s future if he did not make the best choices.

In Horatio history, his father passed away at an early age which caused him and his mother to move to Norway to escape their own pain and emotional backlash. While in Norway, the forest creatures of course lurked around and their spotting caused Horatio and his mother to become outcasts. (No one believed their claims.) Horatio’s mother then grew ill and died, and Horatio was passed along to his relatives who dismissed his presence. Horatio then became obsessed with the mythical creatures of the forest as loneliness and depression become a heavy weight on his mind. In the end, Horatio’s unfortunate past led him to be consumed by his own emotions, and as result, he become the perfect ruthless antagonist of the book. Horatio represents how good people can easily become evil if they are not able to conquer loss of loved ones.

 

Pro-Vegetarian

Speaking of the horrors of death, this book reflects the perfect perspective on the horrors of eating other living beings.

One of the many outrageous events is Samuel’s transformation in a rabbit by Horatio’s henchman. From here, rabbit Samuel is captured by trolls with the intention of being sliced up for dinner. Stop and think about this for a moment! The reason why it is easy for us to eat other animals in a casual manner is because we lack empathy. We don’t understand how it feels to be hunted, and Haig tries to put you in that mindset as Samuel tries desperately to save his life.

However, the cherry on the top if this experience is when rabbit Samuel learns the name of the very rabbit he ate the night before when he was a human, and immediately felt sick to the very core of his soul. He became sick because he learns that he ate a rabbit’s child; he ate a rabbit’s brother; basically, he ate a piece of himself.

 

The Bunny Cult?

The other captured rabbits have accepted their fate since their spiritual adviser has convinced to do so. He mentions that the trolls will take the “chosen rabbit” to Thubula’s paradise, which a place where the grass is always green and rabbits gain peace-of-mind. This may be Haig’s direct attack on the politics of religion. Thubula presented as the all-knowing spiritual idol, and paradise is presented as a type of heaven. The rabbit advisor is even able to convince his followers that the rebellious Samuel is resisting his fate, that humans are just confused bunnies. Let’s entertain the idea for a moment.

It’s very true that both humans and rabbits are communal and possess the follow-the-leader type mentality whether it’s a small scale (you do what your parents ask of you) or on a grand scale (you abide by the national government). As the adviser rabbit mentioned, humans are sometimes confused of their purpose in life. And this can be a fact since we pump up our egos with careers, material possessions, and artificial intelligence to compensate for our lack of understanding. However, human are unique in the since that we are design to create, survive, adapt, and re-create. This means, even though we are creatures of habit, we can break that and old habit and recreate a new habit. We can create a reality for ourselves, and erase it, then create another reality. So I guess, humans are special rabbits. But my point is, the rabbit scene in the Samuel Blink story is a direct reflection on communal thinking minds verses individual thinking minds.

 

Dualism

There are many opposites in the story starting from opposite personalities between Samuel and Martha to the opposite worlds between the Forbidden Forest and Norway. However, the most obvious (in terms of color) is the relationship between the Snow Witch and the Shadow Witch. Neither Witch is evil. They both co-exist as powerful entities much like the concepts Ying and the Yang. Because the witches are powerful, they are both admired and they are feared. Their contradicting nature creates balance and   harmony, and this is the very power that humans possess. Balance is needed for happiness, and going back to Professor Horatio, he only focus on his power with the Shadow Witch, so I’m sure you can guess what fate lies for him.

 

 

Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest is written by Matt Haig
Puffin Books

http://www.penguin.com

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WARNING:

IN THIS ANALYSIS WHEN REFERING TO GOD, I’M REFERRING TO HIM AS A CHARACTER IN A STORY.

 

Most of us have heard the story of Adam and Eve. God told his creations to not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, yet the snake tricks them into doing so anyway. As a result, God curses Adam, Eve, and even the snake, and banishes them from the garden of Eden. For the rest of their days, they must make a living on earth. But is this the whole story? What is the tree of knowledge, and who’s really to blame for the fall of man? Well, there’s only one way to find out. I’m going to do a close explication of the story of Adam and Eve to seek answers to these questions.

In the Bible, the story of Adam and Eve is located in chapter two of Genesis. In this chapter, the narrator describes how God made a magnificent garden in Eden, and in this garden resides the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam is the manager of the garden since God expects him to take care of it. Adam is free to do whatever he pleases, but God gives him one rule to follow: don’t eat from the tree of knowledge. God says, “You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” The first question we must address before exploring the symbolism of the tree of knowledge is, “Why did God incorporate a deadly source in his seemingly innocent garden?”

God is testing Adam. He is making sure Adam trusts his word and obeys his rule. And based on the God’s statement, the test is very simple to past. Adam just has to stay away from the one tree, and as a reward, Adam is granted eternal life. But, is there more to this analysis? May be there’s another perspective to this situation. What if God is very curious? After all, Adam is one of his first human creations. Adam is God’s experiment. May be God wants to see if Adam will choose knowledge over life, but knowledge of what?

At face value, the tree of knowledge is as stated. It’s the tree of the concept of good, and it’s the tree of the concept of evil. However, there has been some speculation that the tree of knowledge is the tree of sexual knowledge. I can understand this claim because immediately after Adam and Eve eat from this tree, they realize they are naked. The narrator says, “Then the eyes of both of them were open, and they realized they were naked.” The reference to the eyes signifies that the tree of knowledge is more than just sex. When your eyes are open, they see things for what they are, including their own nudity. After Adam and Eve ate from this tree, they now see their world for what it is. Basically, they gained consciousness.

Consciousness is the part of the mind that analyzes and understands. Consciousness is, “the awareness of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, and surroundings.” So Adam and Eve now realize they’re human, they realize what is God, they realize what sex is, and most importantly, they realize what are good actions and what are evil actions. Therefore, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the tree of the conscious mind.

Before Adam and Eve ate from the tree of consciousness, they were like new born babies. God gave them everything they needed to survive, and they didn’t have the ability to question anything. So God wants Adam and Eve to remain in this state. He wants them to remain ignorant and carefree. However, as I mentioned before, God is curious. He put that tree in the garden to see whether his creations want what he wants. Of course, Adam and Eve decision to eat from the tree suggest they want the opposite of what God wants, but this may not be the case. May be they did want what God wanted. They were just tricked into thinking otherwise. In the next post, I will attempt to find out Adam and Eve’s intentions, and who’s to blame for the fall of man.

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She did it! She actually did! Holly Black created a book that’s much better than its predecessors.

Ironside is the last book from Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series, and it holds more fantasy elements than both Tithe and Valiant. Most importantly, it develops each and every main character from the first book. (It even develops Luis from Valiant.) Ironside tackles all unanswered questions while maintaining the vivid story telling techniques that made Black’s work so desirable in the first place.  This book is easily one of my favorite Young Adult novels at the moment.

Ironside is so enjoyable, I have nothing negative to say about it. Throughout the novel, the protagonist Kaye and her friend Corny cope with their personal dilemmas while interacting with the fey to bring order between the faerie courts. Kaye has an identity crisis. She’s not the Kaye that she is led to believe for so many years, so she’s obligated to reveals her inhuman self to her mother. Corny is grieving from the lost of his sister and acts out by losing his compassion and participates in drastic situations. Both Kaye and Corny stick together and help each other as they complete their mission.

The are so many other entertaining and deep moments in this book, but Kaye and Corny’s resolutions were the highlights. Unfortunately, this book will not have the same impact if you haven’t read Tithe. Therefore, read Tithe just so you can really appreciate Black’s best work in the Modern Faerie Tale series.

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Below is a review I immediately posted on Amazon.com in response to the parents who nit-picked at the insignificant details of the book.

First of all, let me just correct all the parents by saying this book is NOT labeled as Children’s Literature. It is labeled as YOUNG ADULT Literature. Therefore, readers who are not mature enough to handle content about some sex, drugs, alcohol, foul language and/or violence should not be reading this book. This means no one should be shocked by the “adult” content. I just have to add this point to my review because I feel Holly Black is a phenomenal writer (as proven in her previous book Tithe), yet her book Valiant is “bashed” for the wrong reasons. So let me tell you the right reasons why her Valiant should be “bashed”.

This story has no purpose because Val, the protagonist, doesn’t pursue any character growth until the very last two chapters of the novel. Val is a naive girl who is betrayed by her mother and acts out by running to a new life. However, even when she is hit with a double dose of reality on her journey, she  chooses to remain naive. She doesn’t learn from her mistakes, which forces us readers to lose faith in her. Throughout 90 percent of the novel,  Val just gets high with faerie dust, uses profanity, and hangs out with her new friends who appear to be bunch of “losers,” which makes her a “loser” herself. This is evident when she is seduced by Dave and has sex with him. I was so angry with this desperate and unnecessary love affair that I had to quite reading for a long period time.

When I eventually completed the book, I realized the most infuriating problem with the story is that it lacks a fantastical element compared to Tithe. Valiant starts with a tree confined by iron (interesting), then it switches to Val and her new lifestyle (not interesting), until the middle when we meet Mabry and Ravus (very interesting). Mabry and Ravus are the only characters that hold my attention, yet they are only mentioned a few times in the middle of the book and have a short cameo at the very end.

Basically, I can go on and on listing the problems in this book. So, to sum everything up in a few words, Valiant is repetitive and disappointing. I will admit that this book has plenty of potential because it nicely ties the modern, urban reality with the mythical world, but potential is not enough. Check out this book at your local library if you are dying of curiosity.

You have been warned!

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