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NASA Ames Research Center Travel Diaries

We just visited NASA Ames Research Center, check out all the interesting things that we saw!

ASOUE season 2 review

A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2 is on Netflix now!

JEA NSPA Convention Travel Diaries

Check out some highlights from the JEA NSPA journalism convention in San Francisco this weekend!

Reviewing Pacific Rim Uprising

Just watched Pacific Rim Uprising, Check out my thoughts on this interesting movie!

Batman Nightwalker Book Review

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

So, I’ve always liked Batman, but he’s never exactly been my favorite. Marie Lu showed Bruce Wayne in a VERY different light, however, and I really liked what I saw. 


The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list. The city’s elites are being taken out one by one as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is about to become eighteen and inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Industries and all the tech gadgetry that he loves. But on the way home from his birthday party, he makes an impulsive choice and is sentenced to community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most nefarious criminals. 

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope. The most intriguing inmate in Arkham is Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. A girl who will only speak to Bruce. She is the mystery he must unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? 


First off, I have to applaud DC for its DC Icons Initiative, where they pair superheroes with tried and tested authors. These heroes are complex and have hooking backstories already. Once put in the hands of master authors, the plot and language clicks into place. It’s magic. 

Second, teenage superheroes need to be a thing. Like, actually. Hullo. Not all comic book fans are middle aged men. Eighteen-year-old Bruce Wayne is a lot more interesting than forty-year-old Bruce Wayne; no shade. 

The characters in the story were fleshed out well; I’m sure that everyone already has some thoughts on Bruce, so it was easy enough to fill in any gaps on his character. But Madeleine was definitely one to watch as well. It’s tricky to craft a villain that genuinely fills you with fear; one that twists into a character’s deepest fears. Madeleine did it, and it was just as frightening as you’d expect. She’s ruthless, and more than a little unsettling. Honestly, I’d just say that Bruce’s friends seemed to slip in and out of the picture a lot. I’d have loved to either see them more, or maybe not discuss them as much, because they fell into an awkward middle ground. Still, Dianne and Harvey seem amazing, and it warms my heart to see Bruce with people that love and appreciate him ❤ 

Marie Lu manages to bring up racism, poverty and sexual harassment, into a book about a rich white boy. It’s magic. This was actually the first book I’ve read by Marie Lu, and I definitely liked. I read Warcross immediately after this (by coincidence :) and I loved it as well! Definitely check out this book, whether you’re a Batman fan, or new to the fandom.

Warcross Book Review

Warcross by Marie Lu

I’ve never exactly been able to get into video games, despite all my best efforts … but I still love hearing about them, and trying my hand at them every once in a while. Warcross gave me some major Hunger Games meets Ender Game vibes, and I was not disappointed! 


For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.  

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 


All right. So this book turned out to be exactly what was expected: a high-stakes cat and mouse game. With shifting loyalties, and a lot more at stake than Emi originally assumed.  

After Emi’s father died, she was left with nothing but his unsurmountable gambling debts, and a handful of memories. She found solace in coding her way through abusive foster homes, and lives day-to-day. She’s always worked alone, fighting to make it through each day with her head down. Hideo Tanaka has provided a source of inspiration for her; a light at the end of a tunnel, so to say.  

I think that the highlight of this story was definitely Hideo Tanaka. Emi is a huge fan of Tanaka and she totally flips when she gets to meet him. He’s a very confusing character; surprisingly kind one moment, shuttered off the next. He gives off very mixed vibes, but is quite fun to follow throughout the adventure. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a lot under the surface with this one. 

This book was very fast-paced, and thought-provoking at the same time. It was definitely a wild ride, and lots of fun to read! Personally, I didn’t like the cliffhanger ending, but I’m anticipating a sequel.

Wonder Woman Warbringer: Book Review

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Honestly, the Wonder Woman movie did not work miracles on me like it seemed to have done on everyone else. But I was still excited to jump into this book, because, Leigh Bardugo. 


Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world. Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. 

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war. 


Watching Diana come into the modern world is entertaining no matter what. Whether its her throwing her bracelets up when Alia calls “shotgun” in her brother’s car, or her complaining about impractical shoes, Diana is a special kind of fun.  

The plot was pretty expected. Alia has been cursed to bring about … well, war. Hence the name Warbringer. If they complete some special magic tasks, they might be able to lift the curse that has plagued generations. 

Diana commits herself to this cause, along with Alia’s brother Jason, his best friend Theo, and Alia’s best friend Poornima “Nim”. The best part of this story was: Jason Keralis. After their parents died, Alia’s responsibility has fallen on his shoulders. He’s always fought to keep her safe, first from rivals after the Keralis fortune, and now from a curse that he can’t control. Not only is he a super overprotective older brother to Alia, he also gives Diana the space and respect that she needs. But … no spoilers, but it’s not that simple.  

The only complain I could find with this book was the weirdly intertwined love triangle-type things going on. A little strange, to be honest.  Other than that, it was a superb story that showed Diana’s heart and grit, with a riveting storyline.

Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer Overview

The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer just dropped; check out some things that I noticed, and my reactions!

Crooked Kingdom Book Review

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

So I just wrapped up Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, and it was … interesting. Honestly, I didn’t really catch the hype for Six of Crows (like the tattoo-level hype), but I liked it. All I remembered was Kaz and Inej. That’s the reason I came back, and boy was I rewarded.  

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world. 

The Plot of Crooked Kingdom was similar to Six of Crows in style. Kaz is trying to pull off another impossible heist, his misfit team is super confused, and plot twist is layered upon plot twist. The story was complicated, to say the least. These missions are difficult to understand if you don’t give this book your full attention. Luckily, though, this level of complexity was my comfortable middle ground, and I enjoyed it. Kaz managed to pull off some really wild stuff this time, leaving me more than a little surprised. His cool demeanor is slipping, though, and it kind of messed up his unflappable character, but he’s not sure if he wants to go back (good job Inej :). Their strength of character inspires me actually though, both of them. They resist the forces trying to pull them back, and they fight hard.

  The conclusion to their heist was kind of dark and … final. It was hard, and sad, and it seemed like a definitive ending. But Kaz’s kindness gives me hope, and Inej is such a little ray of sunshine. I have to say that I was disappointed by Matthias, and it seemed extremely abrupt to me, and a little out of place in the scope of things.  

Still, if this dysfunctional squad manages to pull it together again, I’ll be there, for Inej ofc ❤

Sirens Book Review

Sirens by Joseph Knox

Just wrapped up Sirens by Joseph Knox, and I’m literally shook. I am really really awful about scary stories, but I attempt to toe the line whenever I feel up to it. I knew that Sirens was a hard core thriller, but I swallowed my fear and tried it out anyways.  


The mission is suicide.    

Infiltrating the inner circle of enigmatic criminal Zain Carver is dangerous enough. Pulling it off while also rescuing Isabelle Rossiter, a runaway politician’s daughter, from Zain’s influence? Impossible. That’s why Aidan Waits is the perfect man for the job. Disgraced, emotionally damaged, and despised by his superiors. In other words, completely expendable.     

But Aidan is a born survivor. And as he works his way deep into Zain’s shadowy world, he finds that nothing is as it seems. Zain is a mesmerizing, Gatsby-esque figure who lures young women into his orbit—women who have a bad habit of turning up dead. But is Zain really responsible? And will Isabelle be next?   

Before long, Aidan finds himself in over his head, cut loose by his superiors, and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman.    

How can he save the girl if he can’t even save himself? 


This book kind of rattled my brain, the mark of a good thriller! This book took me from confused to scared to surprised to sad and back. Whoo. It was a wild ride.  

I liked the fast pace of the book, and the action never let up. It never felt bored, or slow, even when the novel paused to get its breath back. I finished it off rather quickly (I couldn’t stand the suspense :)  

The characters were a little hard to keep track of, but it wasn’t too bad. None of the characters are likeable, to be completely honest, but they’re relatable. Aidan Waits solving this case as everyone turns on him is nothing short of a miracle. 

The story itself was rather sad, actually. The crime may be solved, but the victims are still hurt, and it’s difficult to know exactly where to lay the blame. One thing I loved, though, is that the book had such a CLEAR ending! One of my pet peeves is books that leave things half said. Sirens ended everything off cleanly, with a nice and satisfying ending.  

Any fan of thrillers, crime novels, or a combination of both would love this book!

Disclaimer: I received this book from BloggingForBooks.com

Master Assassins Book Review

Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick

“I traveled with him because he promised there was a doctor where we were going. And because a God whispered in my year.” Once more, she is perfectly serious. 

“Which God?” says Chindilan, and Mektu asks, “Which ear?”  

I just finished Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick. This action-packed adventure follows a pair of brothers who accidentally commit treason of the highest order and are forced to run from the very army that they have been serving for years.  

Kandri Hinjuman was never meant to be a soldier. His brother Mektu was never meant for this world. Rivals since childhood, they are drafted into a horrific war led by a madwoman-Prophet, and survive each day only by hiding their disbelief. Kandri is good at blending in, but Mektu is hopeless: impulsive, erratic—and certain that a demon is stalking him. Is this madness or a second sense? Either way, Kandri knows that Mektu’s antics will land them both in early graves.  

But all bets are off when the brothers’ simmering feud explodes into violence, and holy blood is spilled. Kandri and Mektu are taken for contract killers and must flee for their lives—to the one place where they can hope to disappear: the sprawling desert known as the Land that Eats Men. In this eerie wilderness, the terrain is as deadly as the monsters, ghouls, and traffickers in human flesh. Here the brothers find strange allies: an aging warlord, a desert nomad searching for her family, a lethal child-soldier still in her teens. They also find themselves in possession of a secret that could bring peace to the continent of Urrath. Or unthinkable carnage.  

On their heels are the Prophet’s death squads. Ahead lie warring armies, sandstorms, evil spirits and the deeper evil of human greed. But hope beckons as well—if the “Master Assassins” can expose the lie that has made them the world’s most wanted men. 

Honestly, this book was quite a page-turner. Although it is rather long at 438 pages, it didn’t feel dragged out at any point. The plot stretches out a lot, and new obstacles keep coming up. The resolutions feel natural and realistic, and the characters suffer as many defeats as victories.  

The brothers Kandri and Mektu are fleshed out very well, and give a realistic interpretation of sibling relationship. Kandri loves his brother, but then he also feels like Mektu is his biggest problem. Their love-hate relationship was very well written, and a blast to read. Mektu brings life to the story with his enthusiasm ans shenanigans, while Kandri’s dry sense of humor is just as entertaining.  

I found the brothers’ romantic relationships a bit strange to be honest. I think that, despite the author’s best intentions, they turned out a bit disrespectful, and more than a little awkward. Making up for this, though, we have two amazing female characters that help carry the story forward, and bring their own wit and charm to the table.  

The world-building in this story is great, and seems like it could exist at any point in time. There is no fancy technology featured, but the storyline does have a vague dystopian feel to it. Unbound by these restrictions, the reader can delve into the story and be immersed completely.  

Master Assassins is the first book of the Fire Sacraments series, so do not expect a conclusive ending. I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series, and I’m sure you will too! 

Disclaimer: I received this book for reviewing from the publisher

Stanford-ASU dual meet: Travel Diaries

We just visited Stanford for the Satanford ASU dual meet. Got to watch some samazing swims, even saw Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel race! Check out some highlights of our trip!

Book Review: Hunting Prince Dracula

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

“Next stop, Bran Castle. And all the delightful miscreants who study there.” 

“We’re about to study there,” I reminded him. 

He sank into his blanket, doing a poor job at hiding his smile. “I know.”


Hunting Prince Dracula was such an amazing book. I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper so much; especially because of Thomas. 

Thomas is literally wonderful; don’t fight me on this, okay?  


Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.  But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again. 


Beyond Thomas, though, Audrey Rose has achieved her forensic dreams by studying at a Romanian forensics academy. However, she is still haunted by the Ripper case and is struggling to move forward in her forensic career. But when strange murders start popping up, she still can’t quell her curiosity. Doesn’t help that the forensics academy is housed in Dracula’s old castle in the middle of a reportedly haunted forest. To complicate things, her relationship with Thomas is becoming strained as well. 

Honestly, Audrey Rose has grown so much as a character; she changes so much through these two books. She doesn’t let the horrors of the Ripper case stop her; no matter how brutal it was on her. She doesn’t let the demons overcome her, but fights them as much as she can. She breaks sometimes, but she pushes on more than she lets up.  

The literal opposite is happening to Thomas. He starts off cold and clinical; but Audrey Rose twists him into an emotional mess, and he starts messing up the things he’s the best at.  

Both Audrey and Thomas are kind of in a mess, and things get even more messed up in Hunting Prince Dracula. But by the end of the book, they’ve still decided to focus on the bright side. God, they’re amazing.  

The plot itself is pretty interesting. The murders compel you to find the killer; you have to figure what on earth is going on. Audrey’s curiosity is contagious and you get swept up in the mystery. Maniscalco manages to keep the story from becoming too dark. She balances the brutal murders with banter between Audrey and Thomas, and lighter moments that Audrey shares with her friends.  

Speaking of friends, Audrey struggles to fit in at the academy, but embraces the few friends that she does make. Competition between the students is fierce, and the others look down on her already. The headmaster is awful to her, and her investigations keep getting her in trouble.  

There’s quite a few characters, but not enough to be confusing. Most of them are unimportant, but they add so much to the story. (Although I love Thomas, it’s nice to see Audrey interacting with other people as well.) 

All in all, Hunting Prince Dracula carries on the legacy of Stalking Jack the Ripper splendidly. There are so many Thomas moments that I used up all my sticky notes marking them. And the best is yet to come: check out the new excerpt from Escaping From Houdini, and the gorgeous cover!

Gun Love Book Review

Gun Love by Jennifer Clement

I just finished Gun Love by Jennifer Clement, and it was definitely something new for me. This book fell into my lap just a few days after the Parkland shooting, and I felt obligated to read this story. I, of course, had my opinions, but I wanted to learn more, to see a different side.  


Pearl's mother took her away from her family just weeks after she was born, and drove off to central Florida determined to begin a new life for herself and her daughter--in the parking lot next to a trailer park. Pearl grew up in the front seat of their '94 Mercury, while her mother lived in the back. Despite their hardships, mother and daughter both adjusted to life, making friends with the residents of the trailers and creating a deep connection to each other. All around them, Florida is populated with gun owners--those hunting alligators for sport, those who want to protect their families, and those who create a sense of danger.  


Gun Love is set in Florida, where Pearl says that hearing gunshots doesn’t even warrant coming out of her home. I wanted to learn about a different kind of life, a different community. 

Sometimes, we can think that everyone is just like us, and we forget that there are seven billion other people on this planet who all live very differently from each other. This book reminded me of that. This book showed me that I have only seen one way to live, and it is not the only way.  

The story follows Pearl and her mother, who live in a car in the parking lot of a trailer park. Pearl’s mother grew up rich, but ran away from home when Pearl was born. Their life is difficult to say the least, but they are happy together.  

Honestly, this book did not have much of a plot of a storyline. It simply showed you a period of time in Pearl’s life. There were fights with friends, drama at church, family trouble, and more. It was a simple story that wasn’t preaching anything. It was just like looking through a window into a different world. And in watching Pearl’s resilience and happiness no matter what the world threw at her, the reader can learn something too.  

If for nothing else, read this book to look into a different world. “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, and this book will definitely stretch your mind. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from BloggingForBooks.com

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Teenage Monarchs

Kids Running Countries?

Hhmmmm…. So. It seems that I have developed a slight obsession with a fictional character.  

Yikes. Okay. Anyone that knows me can attest that is a vast understatement. In an effort to figure out exactly which characters retain my attention, I’ve started classifying them. One category is teenage monarchs. I definitely have an affinity towards young souls who are prematurely forced to carry the burden of entire civilizations on their backs.  

So, here are my top seven teenage monarchs.  

7. Maxon Schreave {The Selection by Kiera Cass} 

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined. 

Okay, so Maxon’s actually pretty nice, and watching him make this super skewed and nearly-impossible decision made me like him (tbh, I liked him more than Aspen from the get-go :). The first time America meets Maxon, she’s having a panic attack. She breaks down and insults him, but he responds graciously and still tries to make friends with her.  Despite all his overwhelming responsibilities, he still makes time for the little things. If he wasn’t the crown Prince of Ilea, he’d like to be a photographer. When America mentions how she used to go to bed hungry before the Selection, he instates a massive program to feed the poor--nearly overnight.  

6. Maven Calore {The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard} 

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart. 

So Maven Calore is this mysterious Silver prince mentioned in this blurb. He’s pretty quiet and shy, and obedient. He’s constantly overshadowed by his older brother, crown prince Tiberias “Cal” Calore. This totally sold me. Cal comes off as a brag and a show-off, while Maven is underestimated and quietly kind. Despite being a prince, he’s surprisingly powerless. The way to he acts with authority and then sneaks around behind the scenes is great. Maven and Mare finally join forces, but … well. No spoilers today.  

5. Kaito {Cinder by Marissa Meyer} 

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder's brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it "a matter of national security," but Cinder suspects it's more serious than he's letting on. Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder's intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that's been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter's illness, Cinder's stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an "honor" that no one has survived. But it doesn't take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for. 

Prince Kai comes all the way down to see Cinder, who is a lowly cyborg, for help. A prince asking for help from a commoner? Like him already. Throughout the story, he provides humor and care to Cinder, even though he has many, many issues to deal with as the crown prince of Eastern Commonwealth. Even though Cinder lies to him and misleads him, he still shows her sympathy and respect. 

 4. Eadlyn Schreave {The Heir By Kiera Cass} 

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, her mother entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought. Note: This is the fourth book in the Selection series, and it obviously contains spoilers as to whom Maxon picked. Read at your own risk. 

Eadlyn is actually a pretty annoying person. She is not loved as much as her father, Prince Maxon, and she is severely struggling to show Ilea that she will be a worthy ruler someday. However, her attitude towards life in general is very relatable. Her public façade around others makes her feel in control, but quickly pushes them away. This is a relatable character, as it is tough to find a balance. If someone is too open, they will have fun and be loved. But they risk being manipulated and hurt. If someone stays brisk and aloof, they will always be in control and on track. But then they risk being lonely, and never forming true connections. It’s a timeless conundrum. Throw in Eadlyn’s responsibilities to her country, and the hawk-eyed media, and you have a monarch to watch.  

3. Tyrus {The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid} 

Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator's daughter, Sidonia. There's no one Nemesis wouldn't kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Now one of the galaxy's most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she's been told she doesn't have - humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire. 

This book is filled with so many plot twists. Like, I can’t even. Tyrus isn’t even briefly mentioned in the blurb. He starts off as the next in line to the throne. Some stuff is off about him, the reason to why he’s the successor is very strategic for the gain of some, and the protection of others. As the plot twists and twists, Tyrus does become increasingly important. Despite being the next in line to become Emperor, he gives Nemesis’ life equal value to his. He looks up to her and wants to learn from her. From a diabolic. The respect that Tyrus gives Nemesis helps her learn to respect herself, and his faith in her helps her believe in herself. Tyrus isn’t all fluff though. He’s more than willing to blow people up, stab people, poison people … well, you get the idea.  

2. Khalid Ibn al-Rashid {The Wrath and the Dawn By Renee Ahdieh} 

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all. Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets? 

Tormented heart? Sign me up! I went into this story expecting lots of action, but there really isn’t. What you see here is what you get. Aside from that, though, the way that Khalid is portrayed in this story is wonderful. At the beginning, it’s easy to see Shahrzad’s quest for revenge. You kind of want to see a sword go through Khalid. But very quickly, you start to see the inner turmoil and confusion. Khalid is doing his best to keep his kingdom together, even if it means sacrificing his own conscience.

  1. Rhiannon Ta’an {Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza}

 CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA'AN WANTS VENGEANCE. The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne - and her revenge. ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye. Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder. The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding - even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee's name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy. 

 Rhee is such a great character because she defies expectations left and right. Everyone thinks that she is docile and obedient, and she uses it to her advantage. She shows that underestimating your opponents is a costly mistake. She was helpless once, and she has made sure that it will never happen again. As her empire crumbles around her, she is forced into hiding to find out who is behind her—and why. Her need to avenge her family’s murder and lead her empire to peace are warring interests as Rhee struggles to win back all that she has lost.   

BONUS. Tony Stark {Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.} 

Okay, so Tony Stark is not a teenager. And he’s not really a monarch, more like a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, but c’mon. That’s basically a 21st century monarch. And he was definitely a teenager at some point.  

Tony is great because he is super sharp; literally a cacti. He can be rude and flippant, mean and sarcastic. He’s used to being left behind and fending for himself. He’s never found the benefits of teamwork, because he’s always, always, had to watch his back. No one has ever given him a hand just for the sake of helping. He’s learnt to distance himself. He’s not a bad person, but he is afraid of being hurt. Also, he’s a genius! Literally. 



We Need a Black Widow Movie

Marvel Studios, 

LLC 500 S. Buena Vista Street 

Burbank, CA 91521   

To whom it may concern:  

I am a huge fan of the Marvel characters and movies. I have fallen in love with the franchise ever since I watched The Avengers. Since then, I have been hard at work collecting merchandise and staying up-to-date on new releases. However, I have one complaint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a female superhero fan, I have noticed a startling void of strong female leads in the Marvel movies. One of the most under played characters is Black Widow. Her character has such potential for a super hit Marvel movie. Not only is her past dark and mysterious, she’s also a quick thinker and a superb fighter.   

Of course, Black Widow has appeared in The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. But rather than her character becoming more defined and relatable, she’s been pushed off to the side. We’re learning more about her male counterpart, Hawkeye, but her role has been deteriorating. Rather than focusing on her competence in the field, viewers are told to focus on her romance with Bruce Banner. Instead of her being portrayed as a strong asset to the team, she is captured and jailed by Ultron, only to be released by Bruce a few scenes later.  

In an era where nearly half of superhero fans are female, there is no reason to continuously portray Marvel women as love interests and damsels in distress. Black Widow, particularly, is not only a wonderful action hero, she is quite close to mortal. Some comic book storylines state that she is genetically enhanced, but most can come to a consensus that she has gained her skills through hard work and sheer dedication. She has faced great challenges, but made her way through. She would make a wonderful role model to children all over the world. Watching Natasha’s marvelous journey will surely inspire young girls and boys to become better, stronger, people.   

Moreover, parent company Disney seems to have embraced their female leads, delivering hits like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Zootopia. Seeing as Marvel’s popularity and sales skyrocketed after the Disney acquisition in 2009, one can only wait for the day when Marvel takes the hint as well.   

Marvel is not only a company; it’s a way of life. I just hope that this way of life can be more inclusive in the future.   

Sincerely,

Medha Upadhyay

For the Love of Books!

Books can change your life ...

Every time I talk to someone about my book, they always ask, “How did you start writing?” And the answer to that, always, is that I started reading. All the books that I read filled my head with imagination and wonder, morales and beliefs. When I sat down to write, I realized that I was just bursting with ideas, and a lot of that came from the stories that I read. Somehow, people today don’t seem to have time for books. They’re always busy, or telling themselves that they’re busy. They’ve always got something better to do. But I’m here to tell you that that is false. You are not too busy to read, and it is not something to be taken lightly. As Sean Covey, Author of Seven Habits for Highly Effective Teens has pointed out, some of the greatest minds in the world barely attended school. Abraham Lincoln spent less than twelve months in a formal school. Then how did he, and others like him, become so knowledgeable? Because they were constantly reading. They read every book they could get their hands on. Of course, we are all very lucky to go to such a wonderful school. But for those who had no choice, they turned to books. And it paid off. 

See, books teach us lessons. They appeal to our human nature and try to make us better people. By trying to understand these fictional characters, we are forced to look at the people around us, and then finally ourselves. Characters can serve as role models and show us what we should strive towards; or as bad examples, and what we should stay away from at all costs. 

Books push us to become the best version of ourselves, they challenge our beliefs, and show us new ways to solve old problems. Books force us to slow down and think. And it  is these thoughts that allow us to grasp the immensity of a story.  Books can force you to take a step away from ourself. To think about others; to notice and observe a little more. Books can show us the vastness of the universe, and our problems don’t look so very big after a good book.  By sifting through a story carefully, we can find the morals. With a little more practice, we can find the ways to apply these lessons to our lives. An author’s goal is to present a story that stays with the reader, because it made them a better person.

Women on 20's

Women on dollar bills?

Recently, there has been a big controversy in politics. Feminists across the nation have been heading a movement to put a woman on a dollar bill. However, there is more to the debate than you might realize, and there are several underlying issues that have come to the light as a result of this movement. 

Looking over all American dollar bills, it quickly becomes clear that there is not a single female face. From George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin to Alexander Hamilton, all the figures immortalized on paper currency are men. 

And a spark was lit. The flames quickly grew, with feminists jumping to action. “Girls are just as important as boys!” one kindergartner protested. From young girls to grown women, many were outraged by this blatant show of sexism. 

One such change-maker wrote a letter to President Obama. Nine-year-old Sofia explains that there should be more women on American currency due to the important things that they have done. Another group of pioneers got together and created Women on 20’s.  

The group has been gaining popularity rapidly. The nonprofit organization hopes to convince president Obama to put a woman’s face on American paper currency. Pointing to examples from other countries, they state that “A woman’s place is on the money.” 

But Women on 20’s faced a tough decision. Which iconic founding father should be booted off his bill? They decided on Andrew Jackson. He was a slave owner and he passed the Indian Removal Act, which lead to the death of over 4,000 Native Americans.  

Another question was who to replace him with. Which woman deserved to be on the 20 dollar bill? Women on 20’s set up an online poll to answer this. Options included Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and many others. 

With one hundred eighteen thousand, three hundred and twenty eight votes, Harriet Tubman emerged as the top choice of America. Second runner up was Eleanor Roosevelt, seven thousand votes behind.  Harriet Tubman was an inspirational and courageous woman that risked her life to guide thousands of runaway slaves to freedom. The people she helped called her Moses, because she led her people out of slavery just as Moses did in the bible. She truly was god-gifted. 

Perhaps more influentially, the government is sending a message as well. If they put Tubman on the twenty dollar bill, they are saying, “America isn’t sexist. Look at this woman on the dollar bill! By the way, we aren’t racist either.” But if you dig down, you can see what this would really show about our country. So we have a woman on a dollar bill. Big whoop. The only reason she’s on there is because she’s a woman. 

When looking to get rid of the scandalous Jackson, only women were considered. What if there were other men that could have taken Jackson’s place? The fact of the matter is that Harriet Tubman is going to be on the twenty dollar bill because she is a woman. It’s only a move of pity. They thought that the only way a woman could be on the dollar bill was if only women were considered. Similarly, WHY do we have a best actress award? Why do we have to put women in a separate category for acting? Because that’s the only way they could win an Oscar? 

Taking a step back from these particular examples, I would like to clear up some misconceptions about feminism. Feminism is simply a belief in the equality of genders. It’s called feminism because it is focused towards raising the status of women to be on par with those of men. In today’s world, feminism has become an excuse for sexism. Women who look down on men are not feminists; they’re sexists. 

Feminists simply want women to have the same opportunities and rights as men. The goal is to level the playing the playing field, so that women can be successful alongside men. The idea is not to give women an unfair advantage. Feminists hope that women will not be discriminated against, treated differently, or underestimated just because of gender.  The bottom line is that women have goals and dreams, too. They are tired of being pushed around and demeaned, and denied what they want. They would like to be appreciated and treated fairly. They want the world to accept that a woman is capable of working hard and achieving great things.  

Really, the country should focus on bringing people together. I feel that putting a woman on the dollar bill is not doing that. By putting a WOMAN on the dollar bill, they’re dividing people. Rather than bringing everyone together, they’re clearly splitting men and women. At the end of the day, I look up to the courageous women that have worked so hard to make their dream a reality. But I feel that putting a woman on the dollar bill is simply going to drive our country apart. 

If people believe a woman should be on the dollar bill, that’s great! But she should be on there because she is a great person, not because she is great woman. Feminism is not a shortcut for women to get what they want. It’s a movement to give them the opportunities they need.  

Thank you,

Medha Upadhyay