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
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.
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.
“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.
Towing the line between life and death. Dr. Stephen Westaby weaves a tale of his most riveting encounters in the operating room in Open Heart. Not only is Westaby a brilliant heart surgeon, but he is also a talented writer. Coming from a humble background, Westaby rose up the ranks through his innovative approaches to heart surgery and his pioneering work with the artificial heart.
What struck me the most about this memoir was the way Westaby made heart surgery as riveting as a BMX race. Even with all of the complicated vocabulary and approaches mentioned, Westaby manages to make his most complicated surgeries understandable by the average lay person.
The stories within Open Heart are filled with moments of heartbreak and joy. Open Heart was the first ever medical memoir I read, and let me tell you – it was amazing. This book has made a surge to the top of my favorite summer books list this year. I am so sure that all of you will think the same, especially if you’re considering a career in medicine!
The Captive Maiden
By Melanie Dickerson
We’ve all heard the story of Cinderella, and probably watched more versions of the movie than should be humanly possible. But when you open up The Captive Maiden, you find a completely new take on our beloved classic.
Gisela leads the life of a sweet, young lady in the early 1400s with her father and her horses. That is until her father mysteriously marries and dies in one chapter. You know the drill; horrible stepmom, ugly step sisters, and servitude to both. What makes this story different, is not only the setting but the twists and turns of this well-known fantasy.
Valten plays our “prince” as the son of a duke; he’s chiseled, and Gisela is taken by his rough, yet seemingly layered appearance. He is holding a jousting tournament for all to see, and Gisela must find a way to attend if only to get a small taste of the life she’s only dreamed of.
As you follow Gisela through her story, you find her to be kind spirited, strong willed and determined that no one will stand in the way of Love. The danger is amidst though, as Gisela’s step family realize she might actually have a shot at winning Valten’s heart.
What is going to happen in this retelling of Cinderella? You’re usual happy ever after?
Read to find out!
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