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  • Books

    Les Miserables: An Honest Book Review

    Les Miserables: An Honest Book Review

    Set in the early 1800s of France, Victor Hugo crafts a moving tale about love and redemption, Les Misérables, which translates to “The Miserables.”

    Hugo was a highly influential novelist during the Romantic Movement in France. He published Les Misérables in 1862 to massive popularity and it is still beloved today. Hugo uses an elaborate plot, unexpected chance encounters, and hidden identities to spin a passionate tale. The novel focuses on Jean Valjean, a former convict, who struggles to escape from his past. The story follows the lives and interactions of several characters while weaving in historical events from France.

    The book is filled with dozens of wonderful, and not so wonderful, characters. Les Misérables challenges stereotypes of the rich and the poor, the free and the jailed, and the beautiful and the ugly. It also proves over and over again what the power of love for others can do. The story is used by Hugo to examine and criticize French society and law in the 19th century. He wanted to bring attention to not only the struggles of the poor but also their remarkable potential.

    In modern days, Les Misérables has been popularized through film, television, and stage adaptations. This classic and well-known story is still being told and read about around the world. Les Misérables continues to challenge people’s beliefs and shape their ideas. I highly encourage you to not only read Les Misérables but to understand and appreciate the themes and concepts present in this beautiful story.

    Need a copy? It’s easy to find for free at your public library, try setting up an account at Hoopla — https://www.hoopladigital.com/

    Looking for other great books? Check out this review of The Book Thief, http://girlspring.wpengine.com/tag/book-review/

  • Books, GirlSpring.com

    The Book Thief – Book Review

    Introducing, Bella the Book Fairy, our new contributor to GirlSpring. You can follow her on Instagram, @bellathebookfairy! Here is her book review of The Book Thief!

    The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak,

    is a beautifully written masterpiece, which I believe every human should read at least once in their lifetime. The Book Thief takes place in Molching, a fictional town in Germany during WWII, and it centers around a young girl named Liesel who lives with her foster parents and how she became the book thief.

    One prominent feature of this book is the fact that the narrator is Death himself. However, this is not as creepy as it may seem! Death is in no way the dark, menacing figure that we most often envision him to be, in this book he is droll and quite tender, showing sympathy towards the souls he carries away.

    Something I love about this book is how unique all the characters are and their relationships with each other. One relationship that I particularly love is between our main character, Liesel and her accordion-playing foster father, Hans Huberman. Firstly, Hans is one of my favorite characters in this book, his relationship with Liesel is very pure and sweet. He is extremely loving and patient with her and teaches her many things, but most importantly, he teaches her how to read.

    Other characters in our story include Rudy,

    Liesel’s best friend who has lemon-colored hair and is obsessed with the athlete, Jesse Owens. Rosa Huberman, Liesel’s foster mother, is loud, swearing, and stern. Rosa is a force to be reckoned with but despite her harshness, loves Liesel very much! Also, then there is Max Vandenburg, the Jewish man that the Hubermans are hiding in their basement, it’s wonderful to see how the relationship between him and Liesel grows and becomes quite endearing. Another character we meet is Ilsa Hermann, the mayor’s wife; the loss of her son has left her a mess, and it is something she is still trying to overcome. It is from her private library that Liesel steals many books.

    Zusak is wonderfully descriptive in a brilliant way, skillfully depicting each scene in such a way that you will always feel as if you are living inside the book.

    His writing draws you into the story, erecting intense sadness and joy in all the twists and turns, and attaches you to the lovable characters. The Book Thief is my favorite book, and I hope that you read it and enjoy it just as much as I did!

  • Books

    What’s on Your Book Shelf?

    What’s on Your Book Shelf?

    by GirlSpring intern Sarah Vice

    You may be exhausted from all the in-class readings that your teachers assign, but do you still take the time to read for pleasure? There are scientific studies that support the idea that reading for pleasure leads to higher reading levels. This also improves test taking abilities when a reading comprehension test is in question. If you have not taken the ACT yet, or exit exams for the school you are in, then there is still time to prepare. It does not all have to be literature books and academic journals. Try reading a fiction novel, a comic book, a murder/mystery novel, or something that might peak your interest.

    In turn, reading for pleasure can give you a boost in confidence to follow your dreams. It not only benefits your reading abilities, it also dips into your personal life. Some of my favorite book authors in middle school were James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer. Patterson always had a unique selection of stories to follow, one being completely different from the next. I would get so into the stories that I would finish one book in less than eight hours and be onto the next one.

    In high school, I became more interested in authors such as Sarah J. Maas, Suzanne Collins, and Becca Fitzpatrick. The stories were more for my age and delved deeper into the science fiction/fantasy genre. The leads in my favorite books were always female, and they gave me the courage to want to fight for what I believed in. The authors themselves had me pursuing a writing career of my own. I liked to look at the author’s biographies on the backs of each book and envision that I could some day achieve the same goals.

    Find an author or main character that gives you purpose. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes, then imagine what they would do if they were in yours. The kind of power it gives you to run free with your imagination is incredible. And while you are enjoying an entertaining story, with possible new role models, you’re improving your reading comprehension.

    If you are not into reading anything other than what is school designated, then check out these book recommendations and see if they might interest you:

    • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
    • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
    • The Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson
    • Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
    • Matched by Ally Condie

    Here is also a link to a description of how reading can affect your reading comprehension as well as your personal life:

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-02-pleasure-life.html

  • Book Review, Books

    Fluent Forever – Book Review

    This is a fascinating, enriching book that teaches the reader how to teach themselves a foreign language. It explains how the brain works and retains information in an interesting, attention-grabbing way. The author uses several funny anecdotes about his journey in language learning, and how it shaped his own life. At first glance, it seems boring or uninteresting, but I was unable to put the book down. 9.5/10

  • Articles, Books

    Why Read Harry Potter?

    It’s been twenty years since the first Harry Potter book was published, and we are still not over it. The wonder and magic that J.K. Rowling created in her novels has truly stood the test of time and changed lives all over the world. If you still have never read Harry Potter and you’re wondering if it actually lives up to the hype, believe me when I say that it exceeds any expectations you could ever have, and I will tell you why.
    The characters that Rowling has created are diverse and complicated, with intricate and winding friendships, mentorships, and feuds. They each are magical and charming in their own respect. Even without context clues, it is easy to tell which character is speaking, due to the unique voices Rowling gives each of them. On top of the intricate and firecracker characters, Rowling’s settings are just as rich and lush. The Hogwarts castle is a never-ending maze that the audience continues to learn about even up until the last book. The always shocking twists and turns that the audience gladly gets caught up in around the Hogwarts grounds and in the castle itself is mesmerizing. Besides Hogwarts, Rowling has created dozens of other colorful settings, along with the plot lines she conjures up. It is extremely difficult to keep a series going, especially for seven books, but Rowling manages this magnificently. Not only does the plot twist and turn unexpectedly, but it also thickens and grows. You fall in and out of love with characters you would never expect and mourn characters you would never hope to. While reading the Harry Potter books, your heart will soar with magic and wonder and ache with empathy for the characters. If you truly have never ventured to read the entire Harry Potter series, it should be the first thing on your to-do list this winter break.

  • Articles, Books, Confidence, Depression

    20th Anniversary of Harry Potter: J. K. Rowling’s Triumph

    June 26th marked the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter. When I found out last week, had no idea I was older than the series (not by too much, only by 3 years). As someone who watched the movies growing up and is currently reading the books (on the Goblet of Fire as of writing this), Harry Potter has had a major impact on me, and especially in the storytelling. But there would be no Boy Who Lived, or any characters from that universe, if it wasn’t for Harry’s author: J. K. Rowling.

     

    Before becoming the celebrated author she’s know as today, Rowling faced a lot of hardship. While drafting what would become Harry Potter and the Philpsopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US), she had a failed marriage, was unemployed, and was raising her daughter on her own. She had also been diagnosed with clinical depression and had even contemplated suicide. Even with all these factors weighing Rowling down, telling her “no,” she kept going. It was because of this attitude, after being rejected by twelve publishing houses, that allowed her book to finally be picked up by Bloomsbury. Who would have thought the number 13 would be so lucky?

     

    Rowling is a role model, not just for writers like me but for anyone who has/had felt like a failure at some point in their life. Continue to persevere toward your goals and your dreams and believe that you can do great things.

  • Articles, Books

    12 Life-Changing Books You Have to Read This Summer

    “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

    This New York Times bestselling YA novel was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. An unarmed black teenage boy, Khalil, is killed by a police officer. Starr Carter, his best friend, must deal with both the grief of losing a close friend as well as the stress of being the only witness of the incident. This book is heavy, real, and powerful. It’s painful to read, but will further open your eyes to the importance of the BLM movement.

    “Once and For All” by Sarah Dessen

    If you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter, Sarah Dessen’s next summer hit comes out on June 6. Dessen is the queen of heartfelt summery books and Once and For All is no exception. Louna is the daughter of a wedding planner and completely distrusts love. So, when she meets the very charming Ambrose, she’s suspicious, but maybe he’s just the one to change her view on love. This is classic Dessen; light, fun, and will leave you feeling happy and warm.

    “History is All You Left Me” by Adam Silvera

    Adam Silvera’s sophomore novel, History is All You Left Me, is one of my favorite recent reads. Teenager Griffin just lost his ex-boyfriend and best friend Theo after a drowning incident. Griff must deal with the loss of the both the love of his life and his best friend alongside his worsening OCD. Told from the perspective of both before and after Theo’s death, History is All You Left Me is heartbreakingly honest and painfully real. This book will make you rethink your philosophy on forgiveness; after all, “people need people”.

    “Queens of Geek” by Jen Wilde

    Two words: Nerd conventions. This is the geeky, queer book of our dreams. Best friends Charlie, Taylor, and Jamie attend SupaCon together, a convention that unexpectedly changes their lives. Charlie, a YouTube star, has just broken up with a costar of her first movie, and runs into a girl she’s had a long-time crush on. Taylor, who is autistic and has an anxiety disorder, deals with her feelings for Jamie. This fluffy, nerdy book is perfect for cosplayers and convention-lovers.

    “Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

    If you like the idea of books set at nerd convention, make sure to also check out Geekerella by Ashley Poston. This Cinderella retelling follows Elle, a huge fan of the classic sci-fi series Starfield. She enters a cosplay contest to win an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with an actor in the new Starfield reboot. Actor Darien Freeman attends cons as the new Starfield star, but he misses how exciting cons used to be before he was famous. Now, they’re awkward and tedious, but he meets a girl (Elle?) who reminds him why he loved fandom in the first place. Isn’t this every fangirl’s dream?!

    “The Tightrope Walkers” by David Almond

    This YA book has been pretty under the radar, but it’s one of my favorites. It follows the story of Dominic Hall, born and raised in Northern England. The atmosphere that David Almond was able to create in this book is amazing; somehow, I really felt like I was in Northern England, like I could see and feel the cold air and mist. The Tightrope Walkers is very much a character-driven novel; there isn’t much of a plot besides watching Dominic grow up. It’s so simple, but it’s also so beautiful. His story shows how you can have a plan for your life, but the people you meet will always affect you and your choices. Nothing always goes the way you think it will, but that’s just life. This book has really stuck with me after I finished it and I really recommend it; it’s very different from other young adult books, but it’s worth it.

    “Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli

    “A List of Cages” by Robin Roe

    This book follows Julian, a high school freshman who lives with his abusive uncle after his parents died, and Adam, a senior who was Julian’s foster brother for a short time. Julian and Adam are reunited at school; while Adam is excited about seeing Julian again, Julian has grown detached and distrustful of others. Through trying to rekindle the relationship they once had, the two boys demonstrate how important it is to have friends and family who truly love and care for you. A List of Cages packs an emotional punch — make sure you have some tissues nearby when you read this one.

    “We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour

    Nina LaCour is one of those authors where I just know I’m going to enjoy whatever she writes. We Are Okay did not disappoint. Once Marin leaves for college, she doesn’t speak to anyone from back home, including her best friend Mabel. Marin just isn’t quite ready to face what happened over the summer — that is, until she is forced to when Mabel comes to visit. This book is so soft and quiet; it reads like falling snow. The plot feels very subtle and is more character-driven, which I love. It’s just such a nice little story about dealing with your past so you can finally move on to the future.

    “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros

    If you’re wanting to venture outside of the YA-sphere, The House on Mango Street is perfect for you. It’s a literary modern classic, but it’s also a coming of age story of a young girl — something a lot of us can relate to. Set in Chicago on Mango Street, Mexican-American Esperanza recounts her experience of growing up poor in a place she does not love. The short chapters act as little vignettes of her life, slowly showing how she is growing and losing her innocence. The writing is what makes this one of my favorite books of all time—it’s so beautiful and lyrical, it’s basically poetry. Cisneros does not hold back; what Esperanza goes through is brutal, but her coming-of-age journey is an important one that I believe everyone should experience.

    If you haven’t yet, you must read Albertalli’s first book Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Simon is gay, but no one knows yet. He isn’t necessarily afraid of coming out, he just doesn’t want it to be a big deal (and his family will make it a big deal). While everyone is clueless about his sexuality, there is one person who knows—a boy named Blue who Simon emails frequently. Simon doesn’t know Blue’s real identity, but does know he’s falling for whoever Blue is. When I read Simon, I literally couldn’t put it down — I immediately fell in love with Simon and rooted for him the whole way. This book just made me so happy and warm. It’s movie is also currently being filmed, so make sure you read the book first!

    “When Dimple Met Rishi” by Sandhya Menon

    Continuing the theme of swoony romances, When Dimple Met Rishi, which releases May 30, is one you don’t want to miss. Dimple, a recent high school graduate, is excited for the summer because she’s heading off to a summer program for web developers. The trip comes at the perfect time as Dimple needs a break from her mother who’s planning to find Dimple the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Rishi, a hopeless romantic, attends the same summer program because his potential future wife, Dimple, will be there. Opposites clash in this adorable, summery romance.

    “Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done” by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser

    Need a break from fiction? Check out Girl Code, a memoir about two teens who meet at Girls Who Code summer camp and create a video game that goes viral. Andrea and Sophie share their inspiring story and some inside information about the tech industry. These two amazing young girls show how if you believe in yourself and lean on your creative side, anything really is possible.