Monday, February 28, 2011

Awesome Author: Interview with Haresh Daswani (Evolution of Insanity)

We're back for another Awesome Author Interview!  This time, I am featuring someone I met through Goodreads, gave me a copy of his book to read and review - which I think is awesome - and whom I asked for an interview. 

It's none other than Haresh Daswani!  Read my book review of Evolution of Insanity, his first book, and you would understand why I am so excited about this interview.  He has actually done a guest post and shared his 10 Good Things on a Monday where he listed ten things that make him happy.

Upon further research, I found that although he's unmistakably from India, he lives in the Philippines, a kababayan - fellow countryman, we'd say.  So without further ado, I would like to present to you, Haresh Daswani!

Tell us about your book

This is my first book compilation. I have poetries which have yet to be compiled, but it is something that would be done on a later date, more importantly, only if my current book gets good sales  :)

I do have plans to write a book on Shaivism, which will be more in an essay form. I want to depict Shaivism as an open source spirituality, not bound by “only this God will save”, but by imparting universal knowledge that can be shared by anyone of any faith, kinda like Buddhism as well.

What was the inspiration that made you decide to write Evolution of Insanity?

My friends have been telling me “you should make that a book”, but it was only when Romana gave in a lot of effort to help out that made me realize that perhaps it should be a book. Meeting her was also of the weirdest coincidences.

The book is a compilation of 5 years worth of hobby writing. Some of the stories there were written in 10 minutes, some would take 30 minutes, but they are all generally fast pieces.

How did you prepare yourself before you began writing Evolution of Insanity?

I zone out. I get random inspirations that starts off with the first line, and grow it from there. I do not plan my stories, I just let it be. In fact, I do not know what I have written until I have finished. I also do not edit or correct anything I write.

What is your reading guilty pleasure?

I like whatever is most twisted, intelligent twists. I prefer British over American writing but Palahniuck, O’rourke, and Sedaris are still in my top writers. Their books have been my sins.

What do you do before writing?  Do you have a ritual that you must do every time before you write?

I tune into Thievery Corporation or some of my songs. I have the weirdest song choices for which I sync in with the running melody.

Who is one writer that you really look up to?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez for his humor, his maturity, his craft, and his intelligence. I believe any writer should aspire his highly evolved writing state.

What is one book that you think everyone should read?

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuck would usually come first to mind, because CEO of the Sofa will not be as appreciated for its views by many.

How do you deal with negative reviews?

I already know that my pieces are not meant for everyone. But at the very least, those who appreciate my pieces are the type of people I keep as friends. My book is definitely not everyone’s cup of cake for it can have some very disturbing points, and I accept that fact.

If you were given the opportunity to become a character in any book, which book would it be and which character would you play?

I’ve always wanted to be Hannibal Lecter.

What advice can you give amateur writers?

Enjoy writing, play around and discover your talent. Do not write to please others, write to express thoughts, and instill values others may pick up. After all, we are all obliged to share the knowledge we have gathered, and let such knowledge continue its evolution.

Thank you so much for joining us, Haresh! 


For more info on Haresh Daswani and his writings, you can  find him on: 

Haresh on Goodreads
Haresh's Blog 
Haresh on
Haresh on The National Free Press 
Haresh on Augusta Free Press 

10 Good Things on a Monday: Awesome Author Edition

10 Good Things on a Monday is a weekly feature  I am doing dedicated to every person's compulsive list-writing.  Every Monday we are going to make a list of 10 things that will cheer us up and help tide us over the whole week.

Here's how it works:
  1. Think of a particular group of good things you want to make a list on, does not necessarily have to be about books, e.g. your current book wish list, or your favorite book foods (you know, foods you love to eat while reading, if you're like me), or your favorite girly names, whatever you can think of, as long as it makes you feel good.
  2. If you have no ideas for a list, you can always visit my blog post to check out my theme for that week and you can take a cue from my list.
  3. Post your list on your blog, grab that cute ARGH button above and put it on your post too, so we'd know you're doing this meme.
  4. Leave the link for your post on my own 10 Good Things post for the week, if you see others doing it, comment too and let's share our good things with everybody.
  5. Everybody goes through the whole week happy!

This week, I am bringing you a really awesome treat.  Not only am I giving you ten good things that are sure to cheer you up, the list would be from a really awesome author, Haresh Daswani who wrote Evolution of Insanity.  Remember him?  I wrote this book review of his book and I am also going to feature an interview with him.  Stay tuned for that interview but for now, go on and take a look at ten things that make Haresh happy:
  1. Dancing Queen by Abba – I usually hear this in new year parties and it cheers me up every time
  2. Yogurt and CHEESE (all types of cheese, as there has to be lots of cheese)
  3. My meditation Mantra (Om Namah Shivaya) makes me calm and happy all the time (works like a miracle)
  4. Watch an episode of Monty Python
  5. My environmental advocacy keeps me smiling too
  6. Watch Jimmy Carr, Mitch Hedberg, or Frankie Boyle on Youtube
  7. Listen to the song Bahon Mein Chalein Aaon, Chura Liya, and other 1950s oldies on youtube
  8. Eating all the strawberries I can get
  9. Figuring out the most devious prank I can pull off to someone completely unsuspecting (I am not as liked by some people)
  10. Write articles for National Free Press, Augusta Free Press, or anyone in general.
So there you go, I hope this helps you get to know him better and stay tuned for his interview! 

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Photo taken from Goodreads

 Book Info

Title:  Her Fearful Symmetry 

Author:  Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher:  Scribner
Language: English
Format:  Hardcover 
Pages:  416 pages
ISBN-10:  1439165394
ISBN-13:  978-1439165393
Source:  Purchased, Booksale


From Goodreads:

Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt.


I have been putting off finally reading this book for the longest time.  I was very intrigued by the synopsis of this book when I picked it up in the bookstore one day.  But because I already had a lot of books to buy that day, I decided to pass on it for the time being.  When I got home, I looked it up on the internet and found predominantly negative reviews for this second book by Audrey Niffenegger.  Disappointed, I thought it best to just forget about it.  Then a month or so after, I found a hardcover copy in my favorite secondhand bookstore and without thinking, took it to the cash register and purchased it.  Later, while thinking about the wisdom of my actions, I thought, What the heck, if I didn't like it, at least I did not pay that much for it.

And now, I can say, finding a copy of Her Fearful Symmetry in that secondhand bookstore was destiny.  In my opinion, this is one of the best books I have read so far.  

At its heart, this book is not just a simple ghost story, it is a story of human follies - wanting one thing but ending up with something else; wanting what you can never have; playing a joke on others but it turns out the joke is on you.  The ghost story in itself is an amazing sketch of the hilarity of the unachievable - you lay in wait for death, but as soon as it comes it eludes you again and you find that you're stuck, with nowhere to go.

Reading through the whole story, I think I could guess at what most people found disappointing:  It is that the book have failed - not their expectations - but their predicted outcome.  At the risk of giving a spoiler, I would say that the ending is not quite what I expected either, but definitely something I could justify and actually preferred.  When reading a book, most of us begin forming the story's outcome in our minds, writing our own twists and turns and usually, a good book would fill that expectation and more.  This book, on the other hand, refused to give the reader the satisfaction of being able to map out its story in advance.  You read through the chapters and just as you were beginning to form certain ideas about where the tale is going to lead, it suddenly takes you on a different route.  Chapter after chapter of unpredictable and sometimes disconcerting twists have finally lead me to realize that Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger is not just a mere book - it has a life of its own, and it will not bend to whatever reader's imagination, the reader would have to bend to this book's contents instead. 

And because this book is alive, the writing, the characters, the scenes seemed very alive and real.  It is not difficult to pretend that what you are reading is real if it is actually based on reality, but with the ghost story inserted within its pages, this book manages to suspend disbelief and yet thrive on it, as if everything that is happening is actually true, or could be true.

This book is definitely a good read if you are willing to keep an open mind and willing to let go and just let this book run your senses - let the book control you, and you will understand what exactly made this book by Niffenegger such a magical reading experience.


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way. 
Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: The Brethren by John Grisham

Photo taken from Goodreads

 Book Info

Title:  The Brethren 

Author:  John Grisham
Publisher:  Doubleday
Language: English
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  366 pages
ISBN-10:  0385497466
ISBN-13:  978-0385497466
Source:  Purchased, Booksale


From Goodreads:

"Trumble, a minimum security federal prison, is home to the usual assortment of criminals- drug dealers, bank robbers, swindlers, embezzlers, tax evaders, two Wall Street crooks, one doctor, and at least four lawyers.

Trumble is also home to three former judges who call themselves The Brethren: one from Texas, one from California, and one from Mississippi. They meet each day in the law library, their turf at Trumble, where they write briefs, handle cases for other inmates, practice law without a license, occasionally dispense jailhouse justice, and spend hours hatching schemes to make money.

Then one of their scams goes awry. It ensnares the wrong victim, an innocent on the outside, a man with dangerous friends, and The Brethren's days of quietly marking time are over.


This novel from John Grisham is one of my most highly-anticipated after The Testament.  I have often wondered about what kind of plot he would pull of now and how he is going to top his other books.  Evidently, this kind of pressure would certainly not do anything good for the upcoming book as I have already piled too much expectation before I even read it.  And it really did.  I was very a bit disappointed with the ending - probably because I am used to Grisham's sense of justice in his stories.  SPOILER ALERT:  IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THIS BOOK, PLEASE SKIP THE SUCCEEDING SENTENCES AND MOVE ONTO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH.  I wanted a little vindication, but it did not come off as I would have wanted it to be, but thinking about it now made me realize that it might be the most fitting ending for this story.

Disappointment aside, I thought this book was very good.  It had all the necessary elements that make a really awesome Grisham story:  very descriptive chapters, fast paced scenes, strategic dialogue, and stories that come to a head in a pretty thrilling climax.  Initially, the book told two separate stories:  that of The Brethren and their schemes, and that of Aaron Lake's run towards becoming the next American president.  While reading those chapters, I was constantly wondering when and how their paths would cross, and who from Aaron Lake's camp would be the one to make contact with the three judges.  With the way the story went, you eventually figure out what would happen but the journey to get there was pretty special and exciting, taking you to different twists and turns that make it a really good read.

The characters were very funny in their own way, and how they were portrayed could be seen happening in reality, with just a tinge of unrealistic qualities that make it more appealing to readers.  The hilarity of their dialogue and situations were even more underlined because of the narration's unflinchingly serious tone.  The writing was very steady and consistent, although it does go a bit downhill in the end in my opinion - which others might disagree with - but still, it's a book worth reading and having on your bookshelf.

This novel in my opinion marked the looming changes that Grisham employed in his writing - less on the lawyerly stuff and more into societal and personal issues unlike his first few books that put him up there when it came to books about courtroom drama and legal rivalry.  I have yet to read his latest books not related to anything about law, but as far as 'practice makes perfect' go, they better equal - if not surpass - this book.


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way.
Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nina vs. ARGH: Hardcover or Paperback?

So I was going to work a few days ago and I wanted to bring my current read with me.  However, my hardcover copy of Her Fearful Symmetry is a bit on the big and heavy size and it occupied a bigger space in my bag - and I even had to fit in a water bottle, my mini-first aid kit, and other stuff you'd be surprised to see in my bag.

I've always been excited about having hardcover copies of a book that I like, which is actually what made me get Her Fearful Symmetry in the first place:  It's hardcover and it's from the used bookshop which made it cost about less than 80 percent its original price.  I also have other hardbacks and I like the aesthetics but once you get down to convenience, paperbacks rule.

Discussing my dilemma with ARGH, he was very much in favor of hardcover books.  And his solution to my bag problem?  Get a bigger bag - a suitcase, perhaps?

                                          Paperback                    vs.                  Hardcover

I think I prefer paperbacks because:
  1. They save more room in my bookshelf - more space for other books!
  2. Which also helps me save more room in basically everywhere else that I stash them, especially in my bag.
  3. They are easier to lug around since they are more lightweight.
  4. They are easier to cover (see New Book Ritual).
  5. They are cheaper.
  6. They are cheaper.
  7. They are cheaper.
I think I could go on and on and all my reasons would all translate to 'They are cheaper.'

On the other hand, ARGH is willing to get me a bigger bag just so I would get more hardcover books because:
  1. Because hardcover books are more expensive, they are also worth more than paperback.
  2. Authors and publishers alike make more money from hardbacks than paperbacks.
  3. Hardcover books have more durable book covers.  And their spines do not crack.
  4. Most books usually debut in hardbound versions.
  5. Hardcover books have better quality pages and the dust jackets look amazing.
  6. Aesthetically speaking, they look better than their paper counterparts.
And the discussion begins!  Which side are you on?  Are you pro-paperback or hardcover fanatic?

Teaser Tuesday: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two "teaser" sentences from that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don't want to ruin the book for others!
* Share the title and author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
I'm reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, and despite the many negative reviews, I am enjoying the story so far, and I hope the enjoyment would last until the ending.

“Are you sure we want the room that overlooks the cemetery?  It seems weird, you know; like, if this was a movie, there would be all these zombies or something creeping out of there at night and climbing up the ivy and grabbing us by our hair and turning us into zombies.”

-page 89, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger


Monday, February 21, 2011

Lots of Things to Tell You About...

First of all, I'd like to tell you about an exciting giveaway over at Ao's blog, aobibliophile.  He just did an amazing bibliochat with author Laurie Bower who wrote the books Moon Rising and Sunrise To Sunset.  Judging from his book reviews (click on the above titles for Ao's reviews), they sound like really awesome reads and all you fans of the paranormal genre would surely love it.  Ao made the contest really easy, he is going to pick FIVE WINNERS and give them a copy each of Moon Rising and Sunrise To Sunset courtesy of Laurie Bower.  Just head on over to his blog and comment on his interview with Laurie Bower and fill out the giveaway form.  Contest ends February 23 so go on, join in the fun, and goodluck!

Next, we have an upcoming interview with a really cool author, Haresh Daswani, and if you've been following my blog lately, you'd know that I really look up to him and his book, Evolution of Insanity is a great read in my opinion.  Watch out for that interview and a cool guest post from him!

Speaking of interviews, I'd like to announce that I just did my first-ever interview over at Amber's blog, AwesomeSauce Book Club.  It's going to be published on February 25 and I am begging inviting you to watch out for that and see for yourself how I made a fool of myself fared on the other side of the interview table.  And if you are interested to be interviewed yourself by Amber, just comment on her post about Looking for Bloggers Who Want to be Interviewed on her terrific blog.  I repeat, February 25 on Amber's AwesomeSauce Book Club!

And last, because this post is so full of interviews, ARGH has finally persuaded me to do an interview with him!  Watch out for ARGH's interview here some time next week, as he attempts to show shows his serious and intelligent side.

So that's all for now, have a great week and happy blogging!  Stay awesome!

10 Good Things on a Monday: Ten Things To Do on a Sunny Day

10 Good Things on a Monday is a weekly feature  I am doing dedicated to every person's compulsive list-writing.  Every Monday we are going to make a list of 10 things that will cheer us up and help tide us over the whole week.

Here's how it works:
  1. Think of a particular group of good things you want to make a list on, does not necessarily have to be about books, e.g. your current book wish list, or your favorite book foods (you know, foods you love to eat while reading, if you're like me), or your favorite girly names, whatever you can think of, as long as it makes you feel good.
  2. If you have no ideas for a list, you can always visit my blog post to check out my theme for that week and you can take a cue from my list.
  3. Post your list on your blog, grab that cute ARGH button above and put it on your post too, so we'd know you're doing this meme.
  4. Leave the link for your post on my own 10 Good Things post for the week, if you see others doing it, comment too and let's share our good things with everybody.
  5. Everybody goes through the whole week happy!

My 10 Good Things for this weekTen Things To Do on a Sunny Day 

Summer is fast approaching here in the Philippines but right now, it hasn't reached scorching yet, just pleasantly warm and sunny.  This is my favorite part of summer, when the air is still a bit cool even though the sun is high up and giving off really hot rays.  But when summer gets really hot - the hottest it reached here last year was 37.3 Celius (99.14 Fahrenheit) - I'll probably get all crabby and hate on summer again.  So I am now just enjoying this really comfortable weather while it lasts.
  1. Read a book on the rooftop with a pitcher of cold water beside me.
  2. Go ride my bike in the smaller streets.
  3. Go for a quick swim in the pool.
  4. Walk a few miles.
  5. Wear a really cute sundress and go out with friends to the park.
  6. Eat bubblegum-flavored ice cream - do not limit to just one!
  7. Take a walk with sick patients to let them soak up sunshine.
  8. Do the laundry and let the clothes dry under the sun
  9. Fly a kite.
  10. Walk and play with the dog - I do not have a pet anymore, but I used to do this with my previous dog Angel who's now dead :-(
Sunny days rock!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review: Evolution of Insanity by Haresh Daswani

Photo taken from Goodreads

 Book Info
Title:  Evolution of Insanity 
Author:  Haresh Daswani
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Publication Date:  January 27, 2011
Language: English
Format:  Advanced Digital Copy
Pages:  158 pages
Source:  From the Author

From Goodreads:

"An author having a conversation with his fictional character, or losing control of his character, mind numbing points leading one twists and turns spinning the mind of the reader with hallucinogenic colors, concepts, and eurekas. The short stories begin simplified, and walks together with the author as he takes a personal journey deep within the universe of his own consciousness, dwelling, prodding, dissecting, and creating... This book is a play on different writing styles uniquely conjured by the writer from random inspiration and experimentation with poetry as prior experience. This is a chronological anthology spanning the imagination and sanity of the writer. This book is a collection of humour, satire, and philosophy, with the most unique writing style and twists. This books evolves as one reads, from basic and simple stories of humor, to deeper and more profound satire best savored twice"


First of all, I would like to thank the author of this book, Mr. Haresh Daswani, for giving me a copy of this book, and the opportunity to read it and give my thoughts about it.

And now, for the review.  Obviously, I would not be thanking the author as publicly if I had not enjoyed this book.  It is witty, entertaining, filled with crackling anecdotes, and hilarious commentary.  Best of all, it is fraught with intelligent observations of how we humans live.

Let me go so far as to say that this book is best read when you are in your most intellectual mood, as it would dare you to think beyond the words of what is written and delve into the author's mind about how he views things.  In a way, I felt that this was not just a book created from the author's imagination, but a reflection of how the author views the world.  One would laugh at the humor-filled statements, the comic scenes and settings, but once one understood the essence of such remarks, one could not help but nod and say, "Yes, that is quite true.  Why did I not think of that myself?"  Or maybe even add one's own ideas, maybe disagree with what has been said?  Either way, one is challenged to agree or refute the author's ideology and rationalize one's own beliefs.

Reading through Daswani's book, I could not help but be reminded of those times in Philosophy class in college.  His writing makes the reader think that they are having a conversation with someone else, probably a very favorite teacher, a smart friend, or better yet, the author himself.  Which reminded me of those times when we studied Socrates and how he conducted his discussions with his students.  Now I am not saying that Daswani is a modern-day Socrates, but what he talked about in this book could spark a lively debate in any Philosophy class and if I were still in college right now, I'd probably bring Evolution of Insanity to school and make our professor torture the whole class with intense conversations about the things talked about in this book.   

Which is not to say that this book is only good for super-intelligent conversations or musings.  You can also read this solely for its entertainment value, and probably use a few lines from this book as your new joke or ice breakers.  The possibilities are endless.

His writing style is also one for the books.  In one chapter, he would go all narrative-like and describe in witty detail a funny story and in another, he would abandon all thought for story-telling and write ideas, observations in prose - straightforward and directly addressing readers, oftentimes even issuing a challenge.

Simply put, this book is a good one to have on your shelf to read during moments of boredom, moments of severe bursts of intellect, moments of good conversations, and practically any moment that you would prefer to read.  Which, in my case, is very often.


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


I received this book free of charge from the author, Haresh Daswani, in exchange for an honest and truthful review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.
Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

Another awesome award!  I would love to thank Bonnie from Hands and Home, as well as Mia from Book Haven.  I'm so happy to receive this!

What to do when receiving this award:

  1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
  2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered.
  3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Unfortunately, I am too busy to hunt down 15 new bloggers I could give this award to, and I only came up with six.  I hope that's acceptable.

Jess from Gone with the Words

Congratulations to those receiving this award! Go check out other blogs on the list as well. When passing this award along please send to other bloggers not on this list.

I Am Back: Answers to the Quiz

If you noticed, I have been gone for a few days - been really busy and could not update my blog as much as I wanted to anymore.  So please bear with me.  I would try to schedule posts to keep this blog as current as possible and would try to visit as soon as I can.

Okay, onto better things, I made you answer a short quiz on Valentine's Day that I was supposed to post the answers last Thursday.  However, Thursday rolled in and I was too busy.  So now, I'm giving you the answers to the quiz:

1.  How do you place an elephant inside a refrigerator?
     -Open the fridge, take out all its contents, then put the elephant inside.

2.  How do you place a giraffe inside a refrigerator?
     -Open the fridge, take out the elephant, and put the giraffe in.

3.  The lion king called for a meeting in the jungle and all animals must attend. Which animal do you think would not be able to make it? 
     -The giraffe, since it's still inside the fridge.

4.  If you have to cross a bridge and there were lots of crocodiles, how would you cross it? 
     -You just cross it, the crocodiles are in the meeting anyway!

I told you it's going to be funnier!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Photo taken from ISBN LIB

 Book Info

Title:  Speak 

Author:  Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher:  Speak
Language: English
Format:  Paperback 
Pages:  240 pages
ISBN-10:  0142414735
ISBN-13:  978-0142414736
Source:  Purchased, Celina's Books and Mags


From Goodreads:

"After Melinda goes through a traumatic and violent incident at a summer party, she calls the cops and becomes a social outcast. Her freshman year is a disaster. As time passes, she stops talking--except through her paintings in art class. Her healing process has just begun when her perpetrator attacks again. Only this time, she doesn't keep silent."


Choose the letter of the best answer.  The correct answer would be revealed after each item with an explanation.

1.  What is Speak all about?
     a.  Typical teenage issues
     b.  Teen angst
     c.  Trauma
     d.  All of the above and more

     Answer:  D.  Speak is all about freshman high school student Melinda Sordino's first year in high school after a very traumatic incident over the summer that turned the whole school from her.  Most of the story occurrs inside her head, her struggle with her new status as an outsider, and the typical teenage issues that she must contend with such as:  Parental neglect/indifference, lack of communication and support person, and inability to concentrate on school work due to painful memories.

2.  True or False:  Laurie Halse Anderson's writing, like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is full of symbolisms.
     a.  True
     b.  False

     Answer:  A.  This book is fraught with symbols, the title itself is a symbol even though it is pretty obvious what it stood for, although it does not only pertain to encouraging a person to speak.  It mainly presents the reader with a dilemma - to speak or not to speak.  To be or not to be.  That is the question, and it will be answered within this book, but not by this book, but by the reader.  There are more figurative elements within the story that the reader should pay attention to, lest they go unnoticed.  Some very simple statements, events and objects had something to stand for - one of the easiest is the poster of Maya Angelou that the librarian gives Melinda.  Angelou is hailed as "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton.  In the story, her poster was prominently displayed in the library, but after the school banned one of her books, the library was forced to take down her poster.  In real life, her book, Caged Bird appeared third on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000.  It was fifth on the ALA's list of the ten most challenged books of the 21st century (2000–2005), and was one of the ten books most frequently banned from high school and junior high school libraries and classrooms (Wikipedia).  There are many other very interesting symbols within this book and I encourage other readers of Speak to pick them out and interpret their meaning.  

 3.  Story-wise, the story of Speak is:
     a.  Disturbing and challenging
     b.  Light and gripping
     c.  Dragging and superficial
     d.  Intelligent and unemotional

     Answer:  A.  At once disturbing and challenging, this book would threaten the typical mindsets of individuals - be it parents, teenagers, teachers, or any member of the society.  I myself am a bit haunted by this story as some parts of this story could be said true about my own high school experience.  Although nothing as violent as what happened to Melinda, her struggles are very familiar and relatable.  Most people would read this and squirm and feel uncomfortable because the issues mentioned here are very close to home.  However, it is powerful enough to challenge the readers to face their own issues, learn to confront their demons, and speak up, have the courage to stand up for themselves and for their beliefs.  This book is very gripping, but light it is not.  It is actually a very heavy story, and the execution is what actually makes this very compelling reading.  Lastly, although this book is very intelligently-written and voiced, it actually explores with a myriad of emotions which makes it very powerful and empathetic.

4.  The character of Melinda could not speak. 
     a.  True
     b.  False
     Answer:  B.  Melinda could actually speak, and does so in several occasions throughout the book, although her spoken words were limited to very superficial matters like talking about shallow things with her friend Heather.  However, this is outweighed by the fact that she could not bring herself to talk about serious matters, or even towards persons of authority like her teachers and her parents.  She could speak but her fear of speaking up and causing more trouble - which is what actually landed her into the school's outcast list - are what stops her from voicing out any opinion whatsoever.  The sore throat, the mouth dryness are in my opinion, a pathological response of her body to her fear.

5.  Character-wise, Speak presented readers with:
     a.  Conveniently-realistic though stereotypical personalities
     b.  At once pathetic and sympathetic individuals
     c.  Both
     d.  Neither

     Answer:  C.  All the characters - Melinda included - were written typical societal behavior in the beginning, which I guess makes them stereotypes.  However, as the story progressed, a more interesting and unique personality began to surface within each character which in turn defined their individuality; and although the reader may or may not like the changes within these people, it would still lead to the successful execution of this story.  At some point I hated Melinda, but as her character transformation went on throughout the book, I became painfully aware of the reasons for why she acted the way she did in the first place.  The characters alone could rouse deep emotions from the readers and paired with the story, it made for an extremely dynamic reading.

6.  This book has:
     a.  Been often challenged due to its controversial subject matter.
     b.  Been made into a film in 2004.
     c.  Become a Printz Honor Book in 2000.
     d.  All of the above.

     Answer:  D.  Ironically, this book has been challenged a lot of times because of its premise.  In my opinion, the more that other people keep from letting teen readers read this book, the more that they are making them vulnerable and uncommunicative.  The biggest problem that people have today is lack of communication which actually makes this book a very timely portrayal of society even.  

This book was also adapted into film that starred Kristen Stewart.  I actually did not know about this before reading about Speak and now I guess I should go watch it, if only to see Kristen pre-Twilight.

In my opinion, this should have been awarded the Printz award in 2000, although I guess it's fine as this book had received more than ten awards from its first publishing up to the present time.

7.   Who should read this book?
     a.  Teenagers
     b.  Parents
     c.  Educators
     d.  Everyone aged 13 and above

     Answers:  D.  This book should not be read only by those potrayed in the story like Melinda herself, her school mates, her parents, or her teachers.  This should be read by every person because what happened to Melinda is not just limited to young people and the trauma that a person may experience may not just be limited to Melinda's experience.  A young executive might have been harassed by his/her boss or co-workers too many times but feels helpless to stand up for him/herself;  an old man might be maltreated by his adult children who are close-minded about the changes that her might be going through due to old age - the possibilities are endless since as I have mentioned before, the lack of communication is the cause of a majority of our present issues in society.  This book confronts people's hesitation or reluctance not just to speak but to assert themselves and stop hiding behind artificial facades.

8.  So did I like this book?
     a.  Yes
     b.  No
     c.  I did not like it - I LOVE it!
     d.  Undecided

     Answer:  C.  Need I say more?


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way.
Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions.