Erica Odell, Book Reviewer And Coffee Enthusiast

MY PASSION IS BOOKS AND COFFEE! They pair so well together. My favorite days are when I am cuddled up with a book in one hand and coffee in another, ” wrote Erica Odell, a popular instagramer, and book reviewer. We’re both communicating via email. “Honestly,” she adds, “The most exciting part of what I do is everything! This may sound nerdy, but reading is exciting! Climbing into a book and experiencing a new story is the best! Writing a review afterward is actually the hardest part because I never want to spoil the book for someone else.

Erica Odell lives somewhere in the beautiful state of California—perhaps, in Las Angeles, or, in San Fransico, close enough to admire the Golden Gate bridge and all its nobilities; because I’m sure the view would be breathtaking. But, let’s not speculate. Let’s deal with facts and stay as close to the truth as possible—because, after all, “Honesty,” wrote Thomas Jefferson,” is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” And so, as we move forward with this, it would not only be wise to not assume anything, to present the most honest and factual portrayals of Erica, and her three most important passions; coffee, reading, and book reviewing, but also, it is my belief that such facts will prove how creative, dedicated, and talented she really is.

Erica first became passionate about reading when she was in the fourth grade, where she first read the book; “Holes,” by Louis Sacher. In case you haven’t read it, and although I am not a great book reviewer like Erica, I will try my best to brief you about the book that she first read. The book “Holes” was about a kid named Stanley Yelnats (or, “Caveman,” as the boys at Camp Green Lake liked to call him), who was mistaken for a crime that he did not commit. And despite the very fact that he was innocent, the majority of the people who came into contact with him assumed that he was and, had to be, guilty. And because they assumed so, without giving him the benefit of the doubt, they played right into one of the lessons that the author, Louis Sacher, was hoping for all of us to avoid; i.e., judging others by their looks, or by their unfortunate mistakes in life.

And since that day, during fourth grade, when young Erica finished thumping through Louis Sachers’ book; by learning to not judge a book by its cover, or anything else for that matter, has given her the opportunity to, later in life, write honestly about many of the complicated characters that she has read about.

Erica has read and, continues to read, so much that she sometimes get, what she calls; bookhangovers. And unlike getting plenty of rest, taking a break, or even taking a hot shower, like some would suggest, Erica, instead, turns to her vice; coffee and more books. “Sometimes after I read a really good book, I cannot stop thinking about it. Which makes it difficult to start a new book, ” she writes. “I recently just finished A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas and it was amazing! Her next book does not come out to May, so I’m currently in a book hangover. The only way for me to get out of a book slump is to continue to pick up different books until one catches my interest.

Crazy about books would not be the correct prescription for Erica—-more like; mad for books. In fact, so much so, that, if given the choice to do one thing all day, she said she would; “Read, write, read and then write some more.” And not only that, but she also gets moody over her books, too. “I’m such a moody reader, ” she writes. “I can pick up a book and if another book on my shelf is calling to me, I can easily discard the book I was reading to start a new one. Or if the book does not interest me within the first few chapters I will not finish it. There are so many good books out there, I don’t want to waste time reading one I do not like.”

Erica’s lax concern for boring books, and the inclination to fill her valuable time with books that are worth it, is the thread that runs through all of her amazing book reviews; which, by the way, are always short, concise, and very practical. Erica feels that if a review is short, concise and sweet enough, people such as herself, will not waste their precious time having too many bookhangovers—or, getting moody because of how disinteresting their book choices might have been. In one of her most recent book review, entitled; “This is where it ends” by Marieke Nijkamp, she writes:

A quick read, but not because it was light and charming, in fact, it was just the opposite. I just could not put it down. Marieke Nijkamp delivers a story that is very current; a horrible act that has been seen across the globe. Shootings. The story follows four different perspectives over fifty-four minutes of terror. The story’s obvious theme is surviving the high school shooting. However, the different perspectives also show the characters surviving through love, life, high school and the most important, grief. For grief is a very powerful emotion and when not healed properly, can be expressed in some pretty horrific ways. The only thing I wished the book had more of was the back story of the individual characters. This is just me being picky, though. While the characters are living this traumatic experience, their past comes up in thoughts. This way secrets are shared and reasons explain current actions. This book does not make me feel happy, but rather sad for humanity. Nevertheless a good read.

For the majority of us out there, who cannot simply dive right into a book without, first, reading a review about it, we know that writing a good review takes time and talent. However, for the few of us who prefer to bypass reading the review section of a book, it might be hard for us to appreciate how important Erica’s work is. Writing a review, let alone, a great one, takes time, patience, and dedication. One must truly have a passion for books—for their intelligence, their wonder, their reveries, and their shapes, sizes, and colors. To a book reviewer, books are more than paper and words, they are gateways to other worlds—to seeing different perspectives and to discovering something new and rich about their own selves.

For those like Erica, who knows the benefits of good book reviews—like, the plenty of time you save from trying to force yourself to read a bad book—the trick to writing them, however, can be more complicated than their outcome. For instance, an effective book reviewer, unlike those who dive right into their books before reading a review about it, cannot read the book, first, because to do so, would prevent them from being objective. Book reviewers like Erica, must not only be objective enough to see the true nature and distinctions of the books that they are reading, but they must also, in a delicate fashion, determine who the targeted audiences are, try to explain how the author achieved their intended effects on their readers, what the relationships of the characters were like, how the paragraphs were displayed, is the book an original or an imitation, what the style of the book is; like was it, for example, riddled with dialogue or drenched with oblique and quick summations.

In addition to the aforementioned review that I presented to you, when you read some of her other reviews, it’s hard to not appreciate how honest, objective, and diachronic she is about her own feelings towards the books that she writes about. Also, her ability to delicately summarize what she just read—while, simultaneously, suggesting to us the many reasons why we should read or not the read a particular book, is something that deserves some sort of acknowledgment. Furthermore, and coupled with how irresistibly appreciative I find her reviews to be, I find her work, in general, to be quite engaging, emotionally rich, full of ideas, fresh, and utterly captivating!

I wonder; are her reviews so good because of the massive amount of coffee that she consumes, or the very fact that she’s been reading since fourth grade, and thus has developed a great sense of what’s interesting and what’s not? Perhaps, I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe what I should be more curious about is; where does the drive behind her great reviews stem from? “Why I like to read?” she asked, without me asking but, which she rightfully figured I would be curious about. “It’s an escape from reality. It allows my imagination to run wild and enter different stories and worlds.”

I do not know the exact secret to writing great book reviews, perhaps it has to do with how pragmatic and retrospective you are, but when I look at Eric’s work, I think it has a lot to do with being able to allow your imaginations to get lost or to “Run wild,” into the book that you are writing the review about. And right there, I think that was the answer that I was looking for—i.e., the drive behind Erica’s ability to create great book reviews stem from the fact that she wants to give the reader a chance for their imaginations to “Run wild.” In other words, if your intentions is to quickly captivate and seduce your viewer’s imaginations, then by default, your going to give them something to drool over.

This drooling-effect that only people as passionate and dedicated as Erica can provoke in their readers, is one of the many reasons why she has a lot of people following her—and, constantly giving her book recommendations to write about. And when she gets those book recommendations from her loyal and passionate followers, she tells me that she sometimes stay up late to read them, and then to write a review about them afterwards. “I’m such a night owl so I’m not ashamed to admit I will stay awake until 3/4 am and not wake until 10…maybe 11 if I’m being completely honest. #noshame,” she writes, “I always start my day with coffee and a little bit of reading and of course I post about it on Instagram. Depending if I have work that day (or any other activities) I pretty much spend my day reading. If I’m starting a brand new book, I usually read the back first, see how many pages it is and then settle in. Why I have to know how many pages? I don’t even know haha. While I read, I keep a journal, this way I can write my thoughts as I go. What I liked, what I didn’t like, quotes etc. When I’m finished with the book, I usually write the review within the day while everything is still fresh in my mind.”

Although Erica is really good at what she does, she admittedly shared with me that, writing book reviews is still new to her, and that she still has a lot to learn. She also said that, someday, she would like to pick the brains of Cassandra Clare and Sarah J Maas, both women are bestselling authors. The hope is; by continuing to do what’s she’s doing, and picking the brains of the aforesaid authors, her writing capabilities will greatly improve as well. In the meantime, and before she meets those two amazing authors, Erica said she’s content with reading and writing reviews from her home library. “It’s definitely small but, I love it,” she wrote, “Because it’s so cozy and I can do it all in my pajamas. lol. I also really like going to coffee shops. Who doesn’t love the smell of constant coffee brewing?”

Like most of us who are good at what we do and are high achievers, and thus we may feel stagnant if we happen to miss a day of what we love to do, Erica sometimes feels like she’s not reading or writing enough. But her advice to us is that we shouldn’t feel pressured to read so many books, that, after all, it is not a competition; “You should do what makes you happy. We only have one life to live, we should spend it fulfilling passions and dreams,” she wrote.

When Erica is not reading, working, going to coffee shops for some R&R (rest and relaxation), or writing creative and vividly stimulating book reviews in her pajamas, she’s usually spending the little downtime that she has thinking about her grandparents—-the both of them, she said, taught her that hard work and education can really get her far in life. “They told me I could be anything I want to be as long as I put my mind to it and, that it is never too late to get started,” she wrote. From her grandparents, the many books that she has, to her massive amounts of coffee, and coupled with her passionate followers, are where her inspirations are often drawn from. With those things, she knows that her future is bright. In 5-10 years she figures that she’ll not only still be writing great book reviews, but she will also be an author—specifically, writing poems and children books.

To check out Erica Odell’s blog, where her great book reviews are waiting for your eyes to see, click the following link; CozyBooks&Coffee

To follow her and see some of her amazing photos of books, her cat, and coffee obsession, check out her Instagram;  @CozyBooks&Coffee

Also, be sure to click the following link to read about our last weekly inspiring person; Meaghan Michel, a very passionate college student with the desire to help and motivate people through fitness.

FOLLOW ME!

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter  | Odyssey 

Noël Alvarenga, Photography At It’s Finest

noel-alvarenga-snipshot

NOEL ALVARENGA IS A VERY TALENTED PHOTOGRAPHER from Los Angeles, California. His photos or “dreamscapes,” he calls them—-which, I will allow him to define in his own words, later on; are visually-satisfying and spiritually-delightful. They not only give you goosebumps and all sorts of pleasurable emotions that cannot be easily explained, but they also give you the opportunity to submerge yourself in the images themselves.

This kind of artistic utility is both remarkable and inspiring—-hence the reason why I invited him for an interview! Like the author, Malcolm Gladwell, suggested in his wonderful book “Outliers;” it takes time (ten thousand hours) and lots of experience to truly invoke a sort of visual-passport technique that excitedly invites the viewer with stupendous grandeur and splendid jubilations. While thumping through Noel’s photographs, it would be a crime to not have noticed how advanced and fully-developed his images were.

It’s not often that I say this; but it seems to me, having accommodated myself with his sublime photographs, which I am going to present some to you in this piece, that Noel Alvarenga was born to take pictures! Having traveled to many exotic places to take some fantastic photographs, Noel Alvarenga has managed, amongst other exciting things, to lend his amazing eye for photography to some top brands, like Pacsun and Aeropostale. In light of that, I am not only confident that Noel will continue to invite imaginative participation with his “dreamscape” photographies, but his work will someday be so ubiquitous that you would be inspired by it and not have even noticed. When Noel is not busy traveling or preparing for a shoot, he spends most of his time hanging out with friends—creating lasting memories, and planning his next “dreamscapes.”

Fortunately, and before his next adventure begins, Noel Alvarenga has granted me one of the rarest opportunities to not only pick his brain but to also offer my readers, his beloved fans, and others, a chance to hear/or see the meaning behind his sublime and professorial work.

WHAT’S YOUR PASSION AND WHY?

My passion has always been sharing moments with individuals and documenting them through photographs. No matter how near or far, whatever it is that I do, and whoever it is that I share those experiences with whether friends, family, or strangers. It’s been that way since I was 15. I’m currently now 30 and the formula has been consistent.  Me, my camera, and a good time.

HOW LONG HAV YOU BEEN CAPTURING “MOMENTS” AND WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOOT?

I’ve been capturing moments myself now for 15 years. But the passion of capturing my life experiences with people around me stems from a time when my parents were together when I was born. My mother and father had a VHS recorder and they documented my little sister and I growing up. Whether it was a birthday party, a trip to the zoo, or just playing in the living room, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, everything was captured on tape. When I was 5, my parents split up and the documentation of my life had ceased as well. It was during high school that I’d go back to those tapes and go into deep reminiscing when I realized I needed to document my life once again. So I asked for a Nikon Coolpix 2500 for Christmas at 15.

YOUR PHOTOS HAVE A LOT OF WOMEN IN THEM; LOOKING POWERFULLY-INDEPENDENT, CONFIDENT, AND DIRECTIONAL. I WONDER, IS THERE A REASON FOR THAT? OR DID THAT JUST SORT OF HAPPENED THAT WAY?

As I write this interview, I’m currently 37,000 feet in the air on my way to Chicago to photograph my friends The Head and the Heart. So I not only do travel and lifestyle photography, I shoot weddings, concerts, anything really. But what I love to showcase onto my Instagram @noel.alva stems from something that I love to call Dreamscapes. A combination of landscapes and dreamy moments. The reason for the anonymity of the individuals (most of them being women) in my photographs is so that way anyone can put themselves into the images and dream of getting away from wherever they are and see the world. Whether alone or with a best friend. I hope to inspire people to get out and explore.

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A DIFFICULT SHOOT DUE TO WEATHER, CAMERA PROBLEMS, OR ANYTHING ELSE? IF SO, WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW DID YOU PERSEVERE?

Luckily for me, most of the stuff I shoot is fun and laidback. I have never really had a strict client that I had to photograph for at a certain time. Most clients are laid back and trust in me to get the shots. But there are times when I shoot that it’s hectic, like when I went with some friends to the cliffs of North Bondi, Australia back when I lived in Australia for a year. We ended up getting caught in a thunder & lightning storm. So, what we did instead was listen to music and take in the power that mother nature is capable of and her glorious displays. Sometimes you have to set the camera down and breathe in the moments and record it only in your mind.

DO YOU EVER GET QUESTIONED IF YOU’RE A GUY OR A GIRL…..LIKR HOW I DID?

Hahahaha!! Everyone on Instagram assumes I’m a girl by the content I create, the fact that my name is Noel, and because my user profile photograph is of a blonde half naked girl sitting on a cliff; however, I’m actually a 30-year-old guy. I get this so often that it’s never bothered me. I actually kind of like it. Sometimes I’ll get messages from girls saying that I give them strength in showing that you don’t need a man in your life to be happy and I’m over here like, “Hmmmm…”

HOW MUCH OF AN ENFLUNCE DOES THE MUSIC YOU LISTEN TO AFFECT YOUR WORK AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?

Music for me is one of the pillars to being truly happy with life. I listen to music nonstop. When I sleep, when I shower, when I go about my day, when I edit, and when I shoot. I am constantly listening to music. All my photographs that I post onto IG are accompanied by a song that I feel goes well with my image. I don’t tell this to people often, but when I post a photo onto IG, I have a weird OCD thing where I have to listen to the song I post with my photo for an hour straight on repeat after I posted it on IG. I’ve been doing this ever since I began my IG account. When I tell people this, they usually think I’m crazy. Oh well.

YOU MAKE PHOTOGRAPHY LOOK EASY, WAS IT ALWAYS LIKE THAT FOR YOU? WHERE DID YOU DEVELOPE YOUR SKILLS? AND WHAT LIFE-HACKS/PHOTO TRICKS HAVE YOU PICKED UP?

Like I mentioned before, I photograph my life and the moments I share with others. It comes out easy because we are being genuine and authentic in what we do. I don’t want my photos to be posed material. We live a moment and I capture us living it. So my photo tricks are simple, play music, talk about life with my friends/strangers, and take photos. Sometimes wine is involved. =)

WHERE AND WHAT DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING IN 5, 10 YEARS?

I don’t know where I’m going to be in 5 to 10 years. But I know I’ll still be doing what it is that I love which is adventuring and photographing. I wasn’t a professional photographer up until 2 years ago or so. Before that, I had many other jobs and photography was always on the side. But when I wasn’t working at a pizza shop or in an office, I was out shooting. It’s my therapy and I will never stop doing it. I hope that it continues taking me to incredible places that I never been to before like my current flight to Chicago. I’ve never been there nor Nashville TN which is where I’ll be shooting tomorrow. I feel so happy that photography has taken me to new places and share experiences with new faces. It took a long time to get here and I feel many other photographers want to become an overnight success, but it takes time and patience and perfecting your craft. Do it because you love to shoot, not because you worry about how many followers you have and likes per photo.

IF YOU HAD THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF WHAT WOULD THOSE THREE WORDS BE?

Dreamer. Spontaneous. Romantic.

WHAT PROJECTS/OR PHOTO SHOOTS ARE YOU PLANNING OR CURRENTLY WORKING ON? AND WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?

Like I mentioned before, I’m heading to Chicago and Nashville to show my friends The Head and the Heart. When I get home I’m shooting for several companies such as @livelokai, @discoverLA, @casamigos, just to name a few and I hope to travel more to new places along some new faces.

noel-photo-7

noel-photo-5

noel-8

noel-photo-3

To see more of Noel’s stunning photographs, visit his Instagram@noel.alva

To find out more about Noel Alvarenga, or to book/contact him, visit his website; Noelalva.com

Be sure to click the following link to read about our last week’s inspiring person; 18-year-old landscape and portrait  photographer, Kenna Allison from Butte, Montana.

kenna-alliison-cool-pic

FOLLOW ME!

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter