Browsing Tag:

books

  • Articles, Book Review, Books, GirlSpring.com, Human Trafficking

    Review: Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

    Half the Sky

    I read the nonfiction work Half the Sky a couple of years ago as a part of a summer reading assignment. Its content blew my mind. Husband and wife team of journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn touch on the many injustices faced by women internationally, a subject I was only briefly aware of prior to reading. 

    Raised in a safe community with trustworthy parents and adults surrounding me, I haven’t personally experienced many of the situations and lifestyles that the authors detail in the novel. However, I feel that it is important for everyone to learn about the oppression that many women worldwide experience. Awareness allows us to work together and end these injustices. 

    What I Loved

    My favorite aspects of the book were the nature in which the authors gathered information and the structure of the writing. Kristof and WuDunn not only did extensive literary research on the topics they investigated, but they actually traveled to several third world countries and interacted with the women there. The book is a series of interwoven essays and anecdotes that discuss the authors’ observations during their travels. It also highlights the personal stories that they gathered from the women they spoke to. In my opinion, the first-person narrative and anecdotal evidence were what made this book so stimulating and captivating.

    Half the Sky is divided into three main parts. The first third of the book focuses on sexual abuses faced by women around the globe. Then, the second third focuses on childbirth and family planning. Finally, the last third is all about education, micro-businesses, and the actions readers can take to help. Each section is filled with small anecdotes, commentary, and additional research that captivate readers as they make their way through the book. 

    The Book’s First Part: Human Trafficking

    In the first third of the book, readers are taken to a small village in Cambodia. Here, the harrowing realities of human trafficking are unveiled. I was shocked and heartbroken to hear that in this part of the world (and in several other countries), it is commonplace for girls as young as eight or nine years old to be captured and traded. These girls are stuck in a very abusive environment for a large portion of their lives. They must obey their master’s commands and remain completely shut away from their families and the rest of society.

    For many of these women, the contraction of HIV/AIDS is common and equivalent to a death sentence. For others, getting kicked out after youthfulness fades is customary. They are then left to fend for themselves in society. This is an incredibly difficult task given that they have been taken far from their families and the communities they grew up in. To make matters worse, they usually have minimal education since they were captured at such a young age.

    Kristof and WuDunn interviewed several young girls, and their stories are included. These personal anecdotes are an absolute must-read and are so incredibly emotional and intriguing. In this section, I also loved learning about organizations that help save the lives of women who have been trafficked through monetary, educational, and other forms of support.

    The Second Part of the Book: Limited Medical Access

    In the second part, the lack of doctors and medical personnel in third world countries is highlighted. One anecdote that stood out to me was that of a woman from Cameroon who was unable to give birth due to a blocked cervix. The birthing attendant decided that sitting on the woman’s stomach and jumping up and down would help. This ruptured the woman’s uterus, causing more problems. Living in the United States, many of us trust our health care providers and receive quality care from trained professionals. It was mind-opening to learn about the consequences of a lack of education. This section of the book taught me many important lessons about the power and value of humanity.

    The Final Section: Micro-Businesses

    The final section of the book was, in my opinion, the most optimistic. I learned about the concept of micro-businesses. Within these, women are given a small amount of money from a donor that they then use as an investment to start their own business. They are very powerful because they allow women to rebuild their lives and feel empowered after hard experiences such as trafficking and childbirth issues. Additionally, organizations that are offering resources for women are mentioned and several actions readers can take are detailed.

    Final thoughts

    Half the Sky was overall a very informative and thought-provoking read. This book really helps garner a better understanding of the oppression and injustices that some women around the world experience on a day-to-day basis. I highly recommend that everyone read this at some point in their life. If you are interested in learning more and/or taking action, visit http://www.halftheskymovement.org/.

    To learn more about Human Trafficking click here. If you or someone that you know is a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

  • Articles, Books

    Goodreads: A Guide

    goodreads

    What is Goodreads? 

    Goodreads is a website where you can discover new books based on your personal preferences. Because it has so many awesome features, people might be overwhelmed and not really come back to the website. I have been on Goodreads for around 4 years now, and have enjoyed it more each and every year. I am here to explain some of the features and activities that Goodreads has. 

    What are some key features of the website?

    At the beginning of making your account, you can choose which genres you normally enjoy. From there, you will receive recommendations based on this. You can change your preferences at any point after establishing your account. You can add your friends on the website, so you can keep up with what your friends are reading. You can also see their reviews of each book if they choose to review it. This can give you an insight into what people around you may enjoy, and give you inspiration for your next read!

    Each time you want to read, are reading, or have finished a particular book, you can record it on your account. You can even record what page you are on, or what your percentage of completion is. You may also comment about whatever is on your mind, creating a sort of virtual book club that you and your friends can enjoy. You can also follow your favorite authors, and they may share opinions on books they have read as well. You will from time to time get emails about recommendations, but thankfully your inbox will not be infiltrated as they are only sent about a couple times a month. They also have annual choice awards for the best books determined by readers of the website. They have giveaways, quizzes, trivia, and a creative writing format where you can write your own stories.

    My Favorite Feature

    Besides having a book club within your friend group, you can connect with people on the website who love the same books as you and discuss them. You can have a q&a with authors who have opened a forum on the website. To add on to all of this, Goodreads can find local events based on your location revolved around book signings or events/conferences that an author will be speaking at. And finally, my personal favorite: The Reading Challenge.

    Each year, Goodreads has a system that can keep track of the books you have read that year. At the beginning of the year, you can start with a goal of a number of books to read during that year. You can choose anywhere from 1 to 1000. This can motivate you to read while adding a friendly competition between you and your friends to see who can read the most. 

    Pros

    Clearly the pros are that there are so many awesome features to partake in on the website. You can go to it anytime you need book recommendations and it is there. Because so many users are on, you can get backed up reviews from the quantity of reviewers. This is a simple way to keep in touch with possible friends who have moved away or you have lost touch with. It is an easy-going safe website that anyone of any age can use. 

    Cons

    Because there are so many features, it can get confusing. The website also could be slightly easier to use because there are so many different tabs when it could be more organized. The aesthetic of the website is quite bland however it can give a calming bookstore feeling. 

    What are the takeaways?

    With Goodreads, you have the ability to connect with people and share ideas and opinions about your favorite (or not so favorite) books. You can log on at any time and participate! You can have a bit of competitive fun using the features with your friends, and it can get you into the habit of reading. For students, it can help with assigned reading during the summer or during the school year. You can get awesome recommendations based on the books you have liked and disliked, and continue to recommend to others! There are some many features that have so many benefits. It is right there in the name! I hope you choose to check it out and make an account. You definitely won’t regret it! I hope you all are having a great summer. Good reading!

    Check out the website yourself and find your next book to binge read. But, if you can’t find anything there check out our list of 12 Summer reads!

  • Book Review, Celebrities, GirlSpring.com, Shero, Woman's History

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Book Review Michelle Obama

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Although Becoming was released in November of 2018, it wasn’t until recently that I finally had the opportunity to read it. A memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Becoming is organized into three sections, “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More,” that bring readers on Mrs. Obama’s journey through several key elements of her life, including her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, her marriage and life with Barack Obama and their daughters, and her experience as the First Lady of the United States of America. I have always loved hearing Michelle Obama speak, and that same strong, intelligent, and elegant voice is portrayed in her writing. I found Becoming to be a very engaging memoir, and there were many important takeaways I had from reading it.

    1.Be aware of your surroundings and any changes that may be occurring: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always a very observant and opinionated individual. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Mrs. Obama discusses that the area wasn’t always as Black-populated as it is now. When she was in elementary school, her class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School had a fair number of white students as well, but the number of non-black students dwindled significantly as the years passed because more and more white families were moving to the suburbs. Through her observations and awareness of the concept of race from a young age, Mrs. Obama was able to become a more thoughtful and societally-competent individual. She would take these experiences and ideas into the future as a law student and woman of great power.

    2. People with authority may not always be correct: When Michelle Obama was in her senior year of high school and applying to colleges, her school guidance counselor told her that she wasn’t “Princeton material.” Instead of taking this as a set-back, Mrs. Obama stayed confident and reached out to other individuals in her school and community to help support her through the process. She successfully gained admission to Princeton University, the school of her choice, proving to herself (and to her guidance counselor) that she was, in fact, Princeton material. Big takeaway: it’s important to always believe in yourself and not let one’s title intimidate you.

    3. Don’t underestimate yourself just because the people around you seem smarter. At Princeton, Michelle Obama found herself to be a definite minority, both as an African American student and as a woman. Princeton, primarily white and male, was intimidating at first and Mrs. Obama felt that she may not belong. However, as she immersed herself in her classes and participated in the discussions, she realized that although the other students may have had a stronger educational foundation than she did, that didn’t make them smarter than her. Michelle Obama realized that she was a valuable member of the classroom, and this helped her succeed as a student at Princeton.

    4. Do what makes you happy. Life may be shorter than you think. One of Michelle Obama’s closest friends at Princeton was a woman named Suzanne Alele. Joining college as a pre-med student to satisfy her parents’ wishes, Suzanne soon realized that it wasn’t the path for her. She was lighthearted and loved parties, and she did what made her happy. Suzanne decided to travel after her years at Princeton, and Michelle Obama initially thought Suzanne wasn’t making the best use of her Princeton education. However, when Suzanne lost her fight to cancer and died at a very young age, Mrs. Obama felt that it was good that Suzanne had spent her life being free-spirited and doing the things she loved. Life may be shorter than we think, so we should always work to live each day the way we want.

    5. It’s okay to not always have a plan: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always very keen on organization and having a plan. Describing her journey from Princeton to Harvard Law School to her job as a lawyer at the firm Sidley Austin, she tells readers that she compared her accomplishments to checking off boxes on big list of plans for her life. However, this changed after she met Barack Obama, who was spontaneous and chose to pursue his interests and take life as it came. Mrs. Obama realized that life didn’t always have to be so planned out, and sometimes success could be achieved by taking advantage of opportunities that came one’s way and through hard work.

    6. It’s okay to ask for help. The transition to the White House was understandably difficult. Through words of encouragement and support from her brother Craig, Michelle Obama made the decision to move to the White House with her husband and family. She requested her mother to help her take care of Malia and Sasha during this process, allowing her to ultimately take control of and adjust to the situation without feeling extremely overwhelmed and burned out. Receiving help can allow an individual sort out their life and can actually help them be more productive.

    Both an interesting and informative read, I learned many important life lessons from Becoming. This is a very empowering book, especially for young women. Becoming is definitely a must-read, and is a great book for the summer if you haven’t already read it!

    Find it here, https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Michelle-Obama/dp/1524763136

    Looking for more good books? Check out our other book reviews, like this one by @bella_the_book_fairy, https://www.girlspring.com/?s=book+thief

    Or, check out your local library where everything is free!

  • Book Review, Books

    Why You Should Read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

    Really, why should you read it? 

    When I picked up this book to read it, it was completely random and it was so much better than I anticipated it would be. It was incredibly eye-opening to real issues that are going on in people’s lives that we don’t realize. I loved this book because not only was it well-written but the story was so relatable and makes you laugh, which I feel like is hard in a piece of writing. Throughout the novel you see the Eleanor develop and grow into a new person, while overcoming her past.

    This book is brilliant in the way it brings to light the effect of loneliness. So many people, especially in the age of social media deal with loneliness. The author based Eleanor’s out of the motivation to show people the effects of long-term abuse, loneliness, and social awkwardness. The author helps you see these issues from a personal level, while being entertaining.

    I think everyone should read this book. Eleanor’s character is hilarious, funny, oblivious, and she doesn’t care what anybody thinks. Her character is inspiring. Even though it is fiction, it shows you a new to see and understand people that deal with these issues. It gives you an inside look into what goes on in their brain and may even help you to not judge someone by the way they look or act. You never know what someone has been through.

    Add this to your book list and you won’t be sorry!

    Looking for other good books? Check out this review of The Book Thief, https://www.girlspring.com/?s=book+thief

  • Books

    That Was Then, This Is Now

    That Was Then, This Is Now

    That Was Then, This Is Now

    A Review of A Classic Tale

    That Was Then, This Is Now by, S.E. Hinton is a coming of age story about two best friends with a bond like brothers.

    Set in the 1960s, the book centers around two teenage boys, Bryon and Mark. The boys spend much of their time at a bar, owned by their older friend, Charlie, and often hustle pool. Mark lives with Bryon and his mom, but the family’s financial situation is steadily growing worse due to Bryon’s mother needing some medical help. The boys struggle to find jobs, and Mark is bringing home suspicious amounts of money. 

    The boys have very different personalities and have gotten into a lot of mischief in their youth. But Bryon starts to change and mature, he starts thinking more about his future and whom he wants to be. Mark, however, does not, and this starts to cause problems between them.

    Other characters we meet are M&M, a young free-spirited kid with big gray eyes; Angela, Bryon’s ex-girlfriend; Mike, a kid they had visited in the hospital, and who’s story really affects Bryon; and Cathy, the older sister of M&M and love interest of Bryon. Cathy is part of the reason Bryon start to mature. He had never been serious about a girl before and being with Cathy is starting to change him for the better.

    One of my favorite parts of this book is the way the title fits into the story. It is brought up twice in the book, but the most significant way its mentioned is at the end. I won’t go into detail for the sake of not spoiling the ending but trust me when I tell you that it will send shivers down your spine. Hinton brilliantly depicts growing up and entering adulthood. She shows us how your life changes gradually, and how it can change overnight. If you enjoy coming of age stories as much I do, then I highly recommend That Was Then, This Is Now.     

  • Books

    An Interview with Author Megan McDonald

    Interview with Megan McDonald, author of Judy Moody

    By: Isabella León – Bella the Book Fairy  

    I recently had the honor of interviewing Megan McDonald the author of the Judy Moody book series. Ms. McDonald was a delight to meet and get to know. She was completely down to earth, funny, kind and by the end of the interview it felt like we were old friends. 

    Isabella: When did you first decide you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

    Megan: Wow. Well, I always loved to write, and when I was in 5th grade I got my first story published in my school paper. I thought it was exciting to see my name in print, but my first story was about a pencil sharpener! I didn’t really think that was something (a writer) you could be until I went to college and studied English literature and writing. After college, I worked in libraries and was always around books and always had the idea in the back of my mind that someday I really want to write my own book for children.

    Isabella: If you weren’t an author, what would you be?

    Megan: I would probably still be doing something with books. I would love to be a part of some unusual library. In Minnesota they collect all the original manuscripts and drawings of children’s authors. I often scribble my ideas on a napkin, so they have some of the napkins on display. I just think it would be cool to be part of a collection like that and be able to go through all the boxes and look at all the original things of an author.

    Isabella: Do you ever feel intimated by the blank screen?

    Megan: Well, I don’t start with the title, that’s last! You know those composition notebooks? The ones that are black & white and have those sorts of marble-y covers? I usually have one of those for each book. And I just start by brainstorming and scribbling ideas into the notebook. By the time I get to the computer— it’s so hard just staring at that blank screen, I mean where do I begin!? So, I usually start with sort of the beginning and end and then figure out what else could be in the middle. That’s how I do it so that when I get to the computer it’s not just this blank document staring at me!

    Isabella: What inspires your books?

    Megan: Well with Judy Moody I would say probably most of my books are inspired by family stories. I have four older sisters, and many funny things happened growing up with that many sisters! I did change it from my sisters to a brother— I changed it to Stink— I wanted also to be free to use my imagination and not have to have it be exactly like it was in real life. A lot of the stories in the first book are inspired by real life. Just funny things, like “The Toad Pee Club” was a real club, the fake hand in the toilet was a real joke I played on my sisters! So, it started with wanting to write down all those funny family stories!

    Isabella: What do you like to read?

    Megan: I like to read— wow, well I like to read everything— but I do like reading mysteries! I grew up reading Nancy Drew so that inspired that! I like to read fiction, I like to read poetry. So, I usually have a poetry book around so that when I get up in the morning, I can read a poem while I drink my coffee— but usually, books that my friends or other writers I know tell me about. I like to find out from other people what they are reading so that I know that it’s going to be a really good story that I can kind of disappear into!  But pretty much everything I’m game for! Except maybe science fiction. That’s really the only thing that I’m not into, I don’t know why!

    Isabella: Do you have a favorite book, something that you relate to well?

    Megan: Well, when I was a kid my favorite book was Harriet the Spy! I really admire the books of Katherine Patterson! She is one of my favorite writers! She wrote The Bridge to Terabithia (upon the mention of this fantastic book I started internally sobbing), The Great Gilly Hopkins, which is one of my all-time favorite books. So, I really admire her writing. I like to read Louise Penny, I am reading this one mystery book set in a little town in Montreal, so that’s fun! And right now, I’m reading a book called My Brilliant Friend, which is going to become a television series, so I wanted to re-read the book again! It’s about two girls growing up in Italy, who are best friends and about their coming of age. I like stories that sort of start in childhood and take you up into adulthood.

    Isabella: Are you planning on writing any more historical fiction books?

    Megan: I do love historical fiction! I wrote this one book about the liberty bell, during the American Revolution when the British were coming into Philadelphia. They were going to melt down the liberty bell, and a group of farmers went in there at midnight and took down the bell and hid it in the basement of this church to save it! So, I like anything that’s really exciting. I wrote another book that’s in a series called Dear America, and they were diaries from a time in history, mine took place on the Santa Fe trail. Also, I wrote a mystery for American Girl and it was set in James Town.

    I love digging into the research and what’s cool about writing historical fiction— and I’ll probably keep doing it— is that you find so many stories that are true, and with the mystery at James Town I didn’t even have to make some of those things up! So many things happened to them!! But I don’t have anything specific in mind at the moment, but that’s a big love of mine!

    Isabella: I also read that you once chased down a book thief! Could you tell me about that?

    Megan: [laughs] I can’t believe you found that! So, when I first moved to California, I worked at this one bookstore, and teachers would come into the store and buy books for their classroom or school library. So, this teacher, who had ordered a whole bunch of books, was coming to pick up her books, and I had stacked them up into two big piles and put them into the paper bags with the handles. I set them in the back of our book store where the office was, but I opened the back door to get some air, so the bags were sitting right there. And then this guy rode his bicycle past them— it was in this shopping center with all these shops — so he rode past them on the back sidewalk and must have seen these big shopping bags, and he came up and grabbed the bags!

    He put them on his bike to steal them— and I’m sure he thought they were from Target or something— but they were so heavy because they were full of books that he couldn’t steer right because they were weighing him down! I hear all this noise, so I run out there and see him getting away on the bike! And I’m like “Stop!!! Thief!!!! Those are my books!!!!” And he dropped the books and we got them back! I don’t think he ever really got caught, but when the owner of the store came after I called her, she was like “Oh my gosh Megan! Next time just let them have the books! Don’t endanger your life for saving some books!” [laughs]

    Isabella: What’s next for you?

    Megan: Oh, good question! Let’s see— for two years I’ve been working on a new book that’s not Judy Moody. And it’s totally different— it’s fantasy! And for Judy Moody—Judy and Stink are going to be in a book quiz. So, they read a bunch of books and have to answer questions on the books, and face off against another team, and they find out who the other team is. They are in 2nd and 3rd grade and on the opposing team, there’s a 4th grader!

    She reads Harry Potter and her name is Mighty Fantaski! And they’re like, “How are we going to win against a 4th grader named Mighty?!?!” And right now, I’m working on another Stink book, and in that one there’s going to be a brand-new character called Lula. A South American Pink Toed Tarantula! So, Stink has to get over his fear of spiders to make friends with Lula!

    Read more reviews by Bella here.

     

  • Books

    Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

    Girlspring book review, a court of thorn and roses

    What do you get when you cross popular fairy tales with fantasy-fiction?

    You get a book series by Sarah J. Maas. She takes a new spin to classic fairy tales with her series A Court of Thorns and Roses. The first novel, A Court of Thorns and Roses, is based on the concept of Beauty and the Beast. The second novel, A Court of Mist and Fury, follows the story of Hades and Persephone. The third installment, A Court of Wings and Ruin, is based off the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

    As the first novel, A Court of Thorns and Roses, unfolds, the reader is introduced to numerous plot twists and heart-breaking situations.

    The story follows Feyre, a nineteen-year-old girl trying to live her life in the harshest of conditions.

    One morning, as she is trying to provide for her family, she shoots down a stray wolf. Something off about this wolf, but her need to feed her family took precedent as she pulled back the bow and arrow.

    After shooting the wolf, Feyre finds herself in a foreign land reigned by Fae. She spends months captive by the High Lord of the Spring Court, one of the many High Lords in all of Prythian. Maas uses mysterious beings in a way that makes them seem just as vulnerable as humans, despite their superior power.

    Feyre faces constant struggles with abuse, eating disorders, self-awareness, and bodily changes over the three-book series.

    You will not feel like you are being lectured on how these issues affect people, instead, you will feel as though you are suffering along with her. There will not be a moment where you do not relate to at least one of the characters and find yourself understanding all their feelings and actions.

    Sarah J. Maas has a way with character development that brought tears to my eyes more than once. I 100% recommend this book series to any book-lovers and book-haters alike. I think if you must endure reading a single novel for a book report, Maas should be your go-to author.

    This series is LGBTQ+ inclusive and has an air of horror, mystery, romance, and fantasy.

    If you need a good book for December break, I recommend this one. Check out a more in-depth synopsis here: http://sarahjmaas.com/court-of-thorns-and-roses/