Book Reviews, Special Guests

Where Light Enters & Q+A with Author Noel Silvia

Where Light Enters is a powerful and moving debut by emerging author Noel Silvia. Read on for my review and a mini Q+A with the author where he shares his inspiration for the novel and his favorite authors!

After a lifeless body is discovered by the river, readers are led back in time to meet multiple characters and the struggles they face in childhood and as adults, culminating in the final events that bring us back to the discovery of the body.

Throughout the book, we are reminded of the hope and light inside of us that keeps us alive and that we can share with others.

This book is unique for multiple reasons. Those interested in linguistics will enjoy seeing the lesser-known but widely spoken Esperanto language interspersed in the dialogue – lending to the international feel of the book. (Learn more about Esperanto here.)

The Esperanto language is accompanied by the novel’s open-to-interpretation setting. The book has no specific setting, allowing the reader to picture the story taking place where they feel fits best. Where you picture the story taking place may be entirely different from where I picture it. There not being a specific setting does not mean the story lacks one; there is plenty of detail for readers to draw their own conclusions.

Most of the characters remain unnamed and are referred to by a nickname or their distinguishing features (“The Matron” or “the man in the purple suit”). I did not think this detracted from the story. The sections of the book each center around one character while maintaining the theme of interconnection, which helps readers avoid getting the characters confused with each other.

There is also an emphasis on color and music throughout, with the idea that music is magic. Lovers of the violin, rejoice!

Caution: The text deals with some very weighty topics – war, suicide, human trafficking, drug abuse, and addiction. I would not recommend this novel to young readers.

10% of the profits from this book will go to charities that work to combat human trafficking and work to help individuals suffering from trauma, two of the big themes in the story.

Lastly, readers will notice various Christian elements but I would not classify this as a Christian novel. It is what the subtitle claims: a novel of hope. We all have a choice to follow the light and to help others in what can be a cruel, unfair world. When we cannot find the light ourselves, it can still find us.

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Q+A

Congratulations on completing and publishing your first novel! What inspired you to begin working on Where Light Enters?
Music has always inspired me. Even an instrumental piece can tell a visual story. A good song makes me want to explore that world. I keep a log of all of my story ideas, and enough threads started emerging where I saw how I could weave them together in a cohesive narrative tapestry. The COVID lockdown was when I finally decided, “it’s now or never”, and I had to do something to feel functional. That need to be productive inspired me to write. I may not have lost weight during this time, but I gained a book that I’m proud of.

What was the most challenging part of the writing process for you?
As da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Knowing when to stop tinkering with the text was primarily the most challenging thing for me. I felt like a parent sending their child off on the first day of school; I had to trust that it was ready, and would be fine on its own.

Was there anything that surprised you about the writing process?
I was surprised how short/long it took to write certain things. There were some chapters that I wrote the entire first draft in less than an hour, and then there were some singular sentences that I spent several hours on, trying to find the perfect words to use in the right arrangement.

Why did you decide to self-publish?
For this book, I wrote to write. My goal was to write a book that I was proud of and would be something that I would want to read. I wanted to try and find my voice as an author, and I did not want to have that altered by someone trying to sell books that were more marketable. My greatest fear would be waiting a year to get signed, only to have the publisher want me to add sparkling vampires and change the setting to a dystopian future. Not that there’s anything wrong with those stories, but they’re not the kind of stories I felt comfortable telling.

What can you share about your upcoming novel Ricochet Day?
I love the theme of interconnection and the ways people are brought together. It was something that I explored in Where Light Enters, but in Ricochet Day, I really want to push those ideas. It’s (hopefully) going to be a lot lighter tone, but still explore these concepts as we follow a group of seemingly non-connected characters over the course of one day. I’m having fun right now arranging the plot, as the narrative will be very “Rube Goldberg”-esque.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Do you have a favorite author?
I love books that make me have an emotional reaction. Authors like Christopher Moore or Tim Dorsey have a great comedic flow that always make me laugh. Then there are authors like Amy Tan or Khaled Hosseini who always make me cry, even in the triumphant moments. There’s nothing worse than art that doesn’t move you.

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Many thanks to special guest Noel Silvia!

Purchase a paperback or e-book of Where Light Enters on Amazon.

To learn more about Noel Silvia’s insights and future projects, visit his author page on Goodreads.

Happy reading, friends, and “may the light find you.”

*I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am not an affiliate marketer therefore do not receive compensation for purchases made through links on this website.

Special Guests

Special Guest Q+A with Mecca Ilminen

Happy Sunday, friends! This is what I plan to be the first of many special guest Q+A sessions for Oak + River Books. Today’s is extra special because Mecca Ilminen – my sister, an eclectic spirit, and the family forager – is sharing her truths on growing up in the Midwest, edible plants, and creative license with your recipes, along with some of her own photos.

Staghorn Sumac

Q+A

Q: Happy birthday, Big Sis! Time sure flies – over 20 years ago our parents moved us to Wisconsin. Can you talk a little about how growing up in a rural environment helped shape who you are today?

A: I spent a couple of decades right next to kitchi-gami (Lake Superior). It has shaped my idea of a good time, from picking blueberries every year around my birthday in the Moquah Barrens, seeing live music performances at Mt Ashwabay, and biking around Madeline Island. I’ve participated in that blistering February tradition of snowshoeing across Chequamegon Bay and have done the October Whistlestop half marathon a couple of times. A mile from that beautiful inland sea is where I met the person who puts up with me every day.

When you and I lived with the grandparents, I believed for a long time that agates were fossilized dinosaur eggs, courtesy of our grandfather’s accent that made the word sound like “eggits.” He knew and never bothered to correct me.

Q: Now that you live in a more urban setting, what are some practices you have to reconnect with nature?

A: The Twin Cities are actually built around nature spaces. According to Meet Minneapolis, the farthest anyone has to go to access a park is six blocks. I am surrounded by trails and lakes. I’m particularly fond of the Minnehaha Creek.  We’ve been talking about buying a kayak. (Visit the Parks page on Meet Minneapolis to learn more).

Q: I consider you to be the family’s forager. When did you first get into foraging?

A: Growing up in northern Wisconsin, we would often go raspberry picking near the house. I remember a golden variety that Grandma was so excited to show us, and they were of course delicious. We also picked buckets of blackberries in the back field. In the Midwest, raspberries ripen in July and blackberries ripen in August. 

As for when it all began, I usually blame Dad. He got me started on clover flowers when we first moved north. Looking back, my interest in eating things I find outside is Mom’s fault. She was the one who introduced me to honeysuckle.

Q. What other kinds of things do you like to forage? Are there any things you find that aren’t commonly known to be edible?

Mulberries

A: Since moving to the big city, my foraging habits have shifted upward off the ground. More recently, I have been all about mulberries. This delicious sibling of the fig is prolific in southern Minnesota. I’ve gone out picking every few days for the last month, and if you see me, I usually have red fingers. I’m currently monitoring several areas with wild grapes and recently scored a food mill for making juice. I had a positive ID on some chokecherries but the birds got them before I did. Closer to the ground, I also found several patches of false solomon seal that should ripen in the next month. (Visit Edibile Wild Food for more info on false solomon’s seal and its inedible counterpart.)

When I still lived up north, I would go out for wild strawberries, wild leeks, milkweed, goosefoot, dandelions, daisies, curly dock, sheep sorrel, plantain, clover, fiddlehead ferns, and wood violet. I also had what felt like a private patch of wild plums off of the Tri-County Corridor. I made some fine tartlets with those plums. 

I get some strange looks in late Spring when I grab a clump of Siberian elm samaras and stuff them in my mouth. They look like small, round green wings, but are the fruiting part of the elm tree. 

Q: What are some recipes you’ve made with the things you’ve foraged?

A: I like to eat as I go, but last year mom did make me a lemon cake topped with fresh wild blueberries we had picked together.  For things I have served to other people, I have used wood violet in place of spinach in lasagna and sauces.  I really want to try my hand at making dolmas since grape leaves are so plentiful, and plan on making sumac-ade.

The last foraging update I sent to the family was that I had stumbled upon blackcap raspberries. I did gorge myself trailside, but some made it home and into a grilled cheese sandwich made with aged gouda and farmer’s market French bread.

I’m a fan of daylilies and roses.  I’ve been told I make very sexy salads.

Day Lilies

Q: It’s important to distinguish between edible and inedible plants and fungi. What books or other resources have you used as a guide?

A: So this is where I get out my copy of The Forager’s Harvest, Samuel Thayer’s first foraging guide book.  (I also have a copy of his second book Nature’s Garden and just ordered Incredible Wild Edibles: 36 Plants That Can Change Your Life.) Grapes are the most common plant I come across that has dangerous “look-similars.” Moonseed and Virginia Creeper are two easily mistaken plants Thayer references in his guide, and I have encountered both. 

Grapes

 

 GrapesMoonseedVirginia Creeper
LeavesGreen, simple, 3-5 lobed/
heart shaped with toothed margins
Green, simple, 3-5 lobed/
heart shaped with smooth margins
Red in late Summer/Fall,
palmately compound leaf with 5 leaflets
Fruit
Cluster
Elongated clusterElongated clusterUmbrel-like cluster
Seeds2-4 seedsSingle pitted “crescent moon” shaped seed1-3 seeds

Samuel Thayer and Melissa Price’s website: https://www.foragersharvest.com/#/ 

Link to Viriginia Creeper USDA page: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_paqu2.pdf 

Milkweed Pods
Curly Dock

Q: When I spend time in nature, I usually prefer to go solo so I can really connect with my surroundings. Do you feel the same way and/or are you part of a community of fellow foragers and hikers?

A: It’s more a function of my work schedule that so many hikes are solo, but I love having company.  When I was in Duluth I would often go out with coworkers to the local trails. 

Q: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with Oak + River Books readers?

A: It is perfectly acceptable to take an iced coffee with you on a nature walk. Do what keeps you active and makes you happy.  Also, you should always bring a container in your purse or bag; pockets are not an appropriate means of conveying soft fruit.

Evening Primrose

Quick Q’s

Flowers or succulents? Flowers

Beach or mountains? Mountains

Favorite season? Autumn

Prettiest places you’ve hiked? I’ve spent many days on the Duluth portions of the Superior Hiking Trail; Houghton Falls is a must when I go home to the Chequamegon Bay

Last place you went camping? The last place I slept in a tent was near Mammoth Caves in Kentucky; last place I went camping for the experience and companionship was right outside of Badlands National Park in South Dakota

What animal would you be any why? I swim slowly and on my back, so probably an otter

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thanks so much to you, Mecca, for sharing your insights and I hope you had a great birthday weekend! Stay tuned for more great content from Oak + River Books…

Disclaimer/Disclosure: Views and opinions shared by guests may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Oak + River Books. Information contained within this post are for entertainment purposes only and should not be used or referenced as professional advice. Please contact a professional for information regarding any of the contents above, particularly edible versus inedible substances. Unless otherwise noted, photos on this post are owned by Mecca Ilminen and used with her permission and she is to be credited in any sharing of the materials contained on this post.

Special Guests

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday, WordPress fam!

My first week of blogging was fun! I’m excited to share more in the future, finalize my posting schedule, and really hone my thoughts and messages. I love sharing information with others and giving them the tools to explore on their own.

This weekend I’m planning to post a special guest Q+A – practicing my interview question skills. Stay tuned for more!

Share a smile!