Thursday, July 30, 2015

Nostalgia Part One: Teen Favorites!

This past holiday weekend, I made the short trek to my hometown to visit my family. My mother decided that it's time I help her clean out the house a little by taking my old school papers, boxes of memories, magazines, and almost all of my books with me. Oh the books, so many books. By the time I headed back Sunday evening my car was so full, there was no seeing out the back window.

Since my library was closed down this week (they're replacing the air condenser and can't have people in and out of the building), I've went through all of those. So in the spirit of going down Memory Lane...this will be a two part post. First here are (in no particular order) the Top Ten Titles from My Teenage Years!

You will hear me repeat this one a few hundred times, but Libba Bray is a phenomenal writer. A Great and Terrible Beauty was the first novel of hers that I read. The story is one of mystery and intrigue, magic, friendship, and romance. Bray expertly crafts a dark, supernatural story and leaves you wanting more. Read it. 

Before you disown me for this one, hear me out here. I read the Twilight series as a young teenager. I connected with Isabella Swan because I was clumsy, a reader, and I felt very ordinary. Like Bella, my parents were divorced. My mom a bit chaotic, dad s cop. And then she meets an extraordinary man. He's beautiful, alluring, and a mystery she aches to solve. So yes, I loved the Twilight series. 

SPOILERS: And though I know many say their relationship is dangerous and the story is anti-feminist, I disagree. Yes Edward knows where she is all the time, but he's protecting her from evil. Yes, Bella has a meltdown when she's left behind in New Moon, but that's just an exaggeration of how we all feel in a breakup. If she were being controlled, Edward would have forced her to stay human forever. But Bella is a strong, brave female character. She punches a werewolf when he kisses her. She armwrestles Emmett; she stands against vampire royalty multiple times; and she is willing to sacrifice herself for her family and everyone she loves. She overcomes her awkwardness and discovers the person she was meant to be. End rant. 

If you like mysteries, art, history, scavenger hunts, or adventure, you should give this one a try. The Da Vinci Code was a great read as a teenager because it allowed me to think critically. It will really get your adrenaline pumping and have you craving the sequel, Angels and Demons. 

Powerful teenage girls who get their abilities from Diana, the Greek goddess of the moon come together to battle the forces of evil. How much better can it get? 

This one is a little crazy, so beware. When their father dies, the four  Dollangager children are uprooted by their mother to go live with their grandparents. What they don't realize is that they'll be shoved in the attic, where they are forbidden to be heard or seen. Their grandmother calls their existence an abomination, and they soon learn that that may be true. 

This beautiful Laurie Halse Anderson story should be read by every teen. When Melinda called the cops and busted a big party last summer, her friends disowned her. She begins to block out her family and finds her only solace in art class where she begins to express herself  using the tree that is blocking her thoughts and her ability to share the truth of what really happened at the party that night. 

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is an inspiring writer. She published her first novel when she was 13, and now has several series. This novel is about a girl named Jessica (that's my name!) that is a published author in high school, but no one knows because she published the book under a different name. When two new kids start going to her school, she becomes increasingly drawn to Alex, who seems surprisingly familiar. If she didn't know better she’d think Aubrey, the villain from her novel had just sprung to life. But he's just a figment of her imagination. Or is he?

As the year 1905 draws to an end, great changes sweep through Russia. The tragic events of ""Bloody Sunday"" usher in a sequence of massive national strikes that force the tsar to turn his government into a constitutional monarchy, and it appears that the radical element has finally won. But for Andrei and Yuri, the overwhelming tragedy of that fateful day was the slaying of their father. Andrei, the youngest, becomes driven to see his father's death avenged, and aims toward the downfall of the monarchy. Yuri, the oldest, is also grief-stricken, but he approaches it with characteristic confusion and uncertainty and finds he cannot support his brother's revolutionary fervor. As Russia plunges from World War I into the ensuing civil war the family is caught in the middle of conflicting national interests. Will their faith and love be strong enough to help them survive?

I think this is one probably self explanatory for most of you, but for the few others...I was introduced to Mr. Potter at the age of 12. Though the books were published three years earlier, I had shrugged them off as silly and childish. But beyond bored at my grandparents one day, I picked up Chamber of Secrets (it had been lying around since my aunt night it for me that Christmas) and couldn't put it down. After that the series became a part of my life, as I grew up with the characters and the actors who portayed them. 

Beyond that, to the doubters out there, the Harry Potter stories are much more than a boy going to wizard school. They're about good versus evil. They're about doing the right thing even when those choices can mean life or death. They're about how friendship and love can get you through anything. They are political, funny, sweet, and beautiful. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Top Binge Worthy Netflix Shows

I've been in a bit of a reading funk lately. I've been reading too many book club books, and not as many books by choice I guess, and now I can't seem to make myself finish anything. So instead of reading, I've been catching up on some recommended Netflix binging. Here's a list (in no particular order) of my top binge worthy Netflix shows! 


An eccentric yet compassionate extraterrestrial Time Lord zips through time and space to solve problems and battle injustice across the universe, traveling via the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), which is his old and occasionally unreliable spaceship that resembles a blue police phone box (but changes its appearance depending on its surroundings) and is much, much larger inside than outside.

In this contemporary version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories, Dr. John Watson is a war vet just home from Afghanistan. He meets the brilliant but eccentric Holmes when the latter, who serves as a consultant to Scotland Yard, advertises for a flatmate. Almost as soon as Watson moves into the Baker Street flat, they are embroiled in mysteries, and Sherlock's nemesis, Moriarty, appears to have a hand in the crimes.

Piper Chapman is a public relations executive with a career and a fiance when her past suddenly catches up to her. In her mid-30s she is sentenced to spend time in a minimum-security women's prison in Connecticut for her association with a drug runner 10 years earlier. This Netflix original series is based on the book of the same title. Forced to trade power suits for prison orange, Chapman makes her way through the corrections system and adjusts to life behind bars, making friends with the many eccentric, unusual and unexpected people she meets.

Computer geek Chuck Bartowski opens an e-mail that has been encoded, subliminally, with vital government secrets, triggering a massive download of critical information to his brain. With assassins and international terrorists eager to nab Chuck's noggin, it falls to Maj. John Casey and his partner, CIA agent Sarah Walker, to protect the government's newest and most-unlikely secret agent.

FBI special agents investigate unexplained, mind-bending cases known as "X-Files." Though the government is convinced that the outlandish reports are false, conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and realist Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), stop at nothing to prove that "the truth is out there." Watch it just in time for the reboot! 

The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 were 1,000 miles off course when they crashed on a lush, mysterious island. Each person possesses a shocking secret, but they've got nothing on the island itself, which harbors a monstrous security system, a series of underground bunkers and a group of violent survivalists hidden in the shadows.

In the years since World War II, the U.S. government has been relocating the world's geniuses (and their families) to the Pacific Northwest town of Eureka. Daily life there shifts between amazing innovation and total chaos. U.S. Marshal Jack Carter learns this first-hand when his car breaks down in Eureka, stranding him among the town's eccentric citizens. When they unleash a scientific creation still unknown to the outside world, it's up to Carter to restore order. Subsequently, he's let in on one of America's best-kept secrets.

Set 500 years in the future after a universal civil war, the crew of a small transport spaceship takes any job so long as it puts food on the table. The disparate men and women just want to survive and maybe have better lives, but they face constant challenges on the new frontier, such as the Reavers -- flesh-eating mongrels who live on the fringes of the universe. Only 13 episodes, and you'll be a fan of the cult series in no time!
The mysterious Beauchamp family lives in the secluded seaside town of East End. Free-spirited artist Joanna Beauchamp is the mother of wild-child bartender Freya and shy librarian Ingrid, who are both gifted -- and cursed -- with a magic birthright, of which they are unaware. Freya notices bizarre occurrences in her life when she inexplicably finds herself drawn to the troubled brother of her wealthy fiance. But it isn't until Joanna's estranged sister appears with a warning that could change the family's fate that the matriarch must reveal to her daughters that they are immortal witches with untapped powers, a revelation that turns their small-town life upside down.

Rescued after 15 years in a cult, Kimmy Schmidt decides to reclaim her life by venturing to New York, where she experiences everyday life with wide-eyed enthusiasm. On a whim, she rents a room from Titus, a gay wannabe Broadway actor, who makes ends meet as a street performer in Times Square. The unlikely pair find they're well-suited to help each other out, with Titus reintroducing Kimmy to modern life, and her providing him with the inspiration that you should never give up. Together they'll make it through whatever life throws at them.

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