A Few Good Summer Reads

Reading is a great way to pass time, escape into another world, educate yourself, and have fun with something. Over the course of this summer, I have read many good books that I recommend giving a try. Here are a few good summer reads.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

“It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.” (Summary by Amazon)

The first book of the Starbound trilogy, These Broken Stars was an intriguing and enjoyable book to read. The plot had several twists and turns that were unexpected but made the book as good as it was. Lilac and Tarver were relatable characters and their growing romance helped make the story more interesting. It was great to follow the adventure of the two survivors and uncover the dark mysteries and secrets of the LaRoux companies and the strange planet the Icarus crashed on.


The Crown by Kiera Cass

“Kiera Cass’s #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series has captured the hearts of readers from its very first page. Now the end of the journey is here. Prepare to be swept off your feet by The Crown—the eagerly awaited, wonderfully romantic fifth and final book in the Selection series. In The Heir, a new era dawned in the world of The Selection. Twenty years have passed since America Singer and Prince Maxon fell in love, and their daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.” (Summary by Amazon)

The Selection series has to be my all time favorite series because of the amazing characters, love story, setting, and storyline. This book was beautifully written, romantic, and dramatic. It was too easy to get lost in the world of Illea and I was sad to see that series come to an end. While the ending of the book wasn’t quite what I had hoped it would be, I still enjoyed it and was glad to see Eadlyn and the rest of her family and friends live happily ever after. It’s so hard not to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read it yet!

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

“Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. There, before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays the only certainty is betrayal. This sweeping story of palace intrigue, class hierarchy, and deception will keep readers hurtling along, desperate to find out Mare’s fate. Her honesty and determination, quick wit, and no-holds-barred attitude will surely make readers fall in love with her. “(Summary by Amazon)

I’ve never written a review for a book I haven’t finished yet, but this book has been so unique, exciting, and worth the long wait at the library that I feel comfortable doing so. The world and general idea of this story are similar to a lot of fiction, young-adult books I’ve read, but it has been interesting to learn more about Mare and follow her story of the transformation from her life as a Red to her new, dangerous, and somewhat exciting life as a “lost Silver princess”.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Mare and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

So here’s a few books that I’ve found enjoyable to read this summer. If you haven’t read these books yet, I suggest giving them a try. Reading can be a lot of fun and it’s a wonderful way to sit back, relax, and pass some time. Happy reading!

Across the Universe: Book Review

Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a sci-fi, young adult novel that was originally published on November 29, 2011 by Penguin Group. It is the first book of the Across the Universe trilogy.

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends–and planet–behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship. Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed’s scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.

Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed’s 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest’s rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead. Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship’s cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again. (Review from Amazon)

Across the Universe was a very unique and thrilling read. Revis did a wonderful job portraying the emotions and thoughts of Amy, the main character. It was easy to understand how Amy felt and more interesting to visualize what she was experiencing on the Godspeed. The love story between Amy and Elder was cute to follow along with. I found the ending to be rather dramatic and somewhat disturbing, but other than that the book was enjoyable. I look forward to reading the second and third book of the series and can’t wait to see what happens next with Amy and Elder. I recommend this book to those who are fans of the Galahad series, Battlestar Gallactica, Prometheus, as well as Ender’s Game.


Lola and Sir Germs-a-lot

In 2013, my mom published a children’s book called, Lola and Sir Germs-a-lot. It’s about cavities and how they can appear in the mouth.

My mom received a degree in dentistry at the Tver Dental Academy in Russia, and now currently works as a dental hygientist in the Denver area. My mom has done many presentations at schools in our area and that’s how the idea of this great book got started.

The story is about a little girl named Lola. She is invited to a sleepover birthday party for her friend, Rosie. The girls have lots of fun but when it’s time to go to bed, Lola doesn’t brush her teeth. This leads to the arrival of an unwanted friend named Sir Germs-a-lot. Over time, Lola stops brushing her teeth and this eventually leads to cavities. Luckily, she visits her dentist, Dr. Marty McBoo, who helps chase away Sir Germs-a-lot and his friends and start brushing again.

This book is super cute with fun illustrations, fun characters, and a good plot. It’s also very educational and can help kids and parents understand how cavities can appear and how they are taken care of.

A lot of people have enjoyed it and their children enjoy it even more. Lola and Sir Germs-a-lot
helps kids understand the importance of brushing their teeth.

I highly recommend the book and hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to read it.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can click here.

Lola and Sir Germs-a-lotLola and Sir Germs-a-lot


George Orwell

“FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters.” This is a famous line from Animal Farm by English author, George Orwell. Some of his major works are Animal Farm and 1984. He also published many newspaper and magazine articles. George Orwell was a different kind of writer.  Still to this day, he is well known for his unique, propagandist, and also controversial writing style. What made George Orwell the author he was? Why did George Orwell distort his writing? Orwell had a rough childhood, was ill or injured often, and had a lot of experience with propaganda, failure, wars, revolution, and socialism and these things could be the reasons why Orwell distorted his writing and became the writer he was.

George Orwell

To begin with, George Orwell’s childhood could have contributed to how he grew and developed as a writer. George Orwell was not born George Orwell. He was born as Eric Arthur Blair to Richard and Ida Blair on June 25, 1903 in Bengal, India. Orwell’s parents were both British but worked and lived in India, which was a part of the British Empire at the time. His father worked in the opium division of the Indian Civil Service and oversaw Britain’s trade with China, so he was always very busy and often away. After Orwell was born, his parents moved back to England, but Orwell’s father continued to work in India so George rarely saw him. Orwell recalled on this, “‘I barely saw my father before I was eight.’ He remembered him as a stern, quiet man who often said ‘Don’t’.” (Agathocleous 9) Orwell loved to write starting at a very young age, writing his first poem about a tiger with “chair-like teeth” at age four. In 1911, he received a scholarship to a very prestigious boys’ boarding school called St. Cyprian’s. Many of the school’s students were wealthy and more trusted by the staff so Orwell, coming from a lower class had to work harder to prove that he was good and worthy. The children were often punished and terrorized by the schools’ owners and the other boys were very snobby and Orwell did not enjoy the boarding school experience. From his school experiences, he was beginning to shape this image of abuses of power and said, “‘Life is hierarchical and what happened was right.’” (Agathocleous 11)

George Orwell

Furthermore, Orwell dealt with many illnesses and injuries that made him the author he was. After young George’s terrible education, he came down with a chronic cough that was eventually diagnosed as tuberculosis. In the late 1920’s when Orwell moved to Paris, he caught a bad case of pneumonia. He was taken to a hospital for the poor and the medical care was not strong at all. Students with little medical experience were allowed to practice on patients like Orwell and the procedures the students performed were described as “grim and no doubt harmful”. One of these procedures was known as “cupping” in which a vacuum was created within a glass and then placed on the patient’s back to create a blood blister which would eventually be drained. A while later, Orwell traveled to Spain and joined the POUM (In Spanish the letters stand for: Workers’ Party for Marxist Unification). On May 20, 1937, while fighting with POUM, Orwell was looking over a sandbag and was hit in the throat with a sniper bullet. Orwell was transported to a hospital and treated. His vocal chords were paralyzed for some time and he also couldn’t talk for quite a while. The bullet had missed his spine and main artery by only a millimeter. By 1947, George Orwell’s health was on a steep downhill slope and he was still working on writing 1984 at the time. He continued to struggle with his health and even through all of the hard times, Orwell managed to write and because of all of his time in a hospital bed, he could think, in some kind of way, and put his ideas on paper. He even came up with his pen name, George Orwell, while he was ill. All of his suffering and struggles with his health can be seen in his writing.

George Orwell

Additionally, Orwell experienced a lot of failure with his writing, was very involved with war and revolution, and also had a lot of experience with socialism. After his bad schooling experience at St. Cyprian’s, Orwell still managed to get into Eton, which was another prestigious boys’ boarding school. His academic performance was extremely poor and after college, he decided to join the Imperial Police force. During his time with the Imperial Police in Burma, he saw many brutal and unjust things and even had to perform them himself sometimes. Orwell was required to arrest and beat native Burmese when they were violating the law. He was even required supervise hangings. George soon left the Imperial Force and joined an underground communist group and was offered to be a writer of propaganda. Life was not going so well for Orwell and he became extremely poor and found his living situation horrendous and disgusting. Also, Orwell always made a point to show that he was against fascism and did what he could to write about his struggle of speaking out for what he thought. He was interested in observing the process of revolution in Spain and after his POUM group was betrayed by another group of communists, Orwell became furious, discouraged, and felt betrayed by POUM. To add on to this, after the fail of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell was crushed so, he went back home to England to write Animal Farm. The year was 1945, this was at the end of World War II. Animal Farm was rejected by more than 20 publishers in England and America because they believed it was a “dangerous” and extremely controversial book and they didn’t want to become a part of something like that. Not only did Orwell write this famous book, he went on to establish his own branch of socialism and published many articles. BBC noticed Orwell’s ability to write and hired him to work on the radio as a propagandist. Over time, George got the inspiration to become an author who can make propaganda an art. And so, while he was extremely ill, George Orwell worked on his next big book, 1984.  All of these challenges in life made George Orwell a propagandist and controversial author.

George Orwell

After five long years of medical struggles, George Orwell suffered from a massive hemorrhage of the lung and died. The date was January 21, 1950. Orwell was 46. George Orwell will be remembered for his unique writing style. His rough childhood, medical issues, and experience with failure, war, revolution, and socialism made him the well known author he is today. “Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” -George Orwell, 1984

The Mind Behind “The President Has Been Shot!”

”By reading. The best authors are always great readers before they become great writers. When I was a child I loved books.” James L. Swanson answered, in an interview with Scholastic. James L. Swanson is a unique, successful author, and very knowledgeable person. His past, relationship with Lincoln, and large variety of books have made him the man he is today.

James L. Swanson was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 12, 1959. His parents enjoyed stories and loved history. Because of this, Swanson grew up in an environment filled with history and entertaining stories of the past. His grandmother had worked at a Chicago newspaper and his grandfather was a policeman from the time of gangsters to the era of Vietnam rioters. Young James would get newspapers and small artifacts and old pictures from his family and everyone that surrounded him. This made Swanson very curious and interested about history and was the beginning of a career in history or writing. James L. Swanson went on to college and graduated with several degrees in history from the University of Chicago. He also graduated from UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) with a degree in law. Swanson has held several positions as a government and think-tank post, which is a group of people who provide economic or political advice in Washington D.C. and on the United States Department of Justice.

Additionally, James L. Swanson had a special relationship with our sixteenth president that started his career in writing. February 12th is not only President Lincoln’s birthday but also Swanson’s birthday. The day James L. Swanson was born, the nurses at the hospital actually joked that his name should be “Little Abe”. Swanson’s parents found this connection to be pretty special, so for Swanson’s birthdays and gifts on holidays, he was given Lincoln memorabilia. At the age of ten, his grandmother got James interested in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. To add on, his parents travelled with him to several historic sites, including Ford’s Theater and Gettysburg. “A boyhood trip to Gettysburg changed my life.” commented Swanson. James Swanson continued to collect artifacts including pictures from the assassination of Lincoln and capture of John Wilkes Booth, newspapers, and many other things from the era of Lincoln and the Civil War.

Finally, James Swanson has been very successful with his writing career and has published many wonderful books. This list of books includes, Manhunt, The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, “The President Has Been Shot!”, Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, and Bloody Crimes. Swanson has adapted Manhunt and Bloody Crimes for young readers. Manhunt has been his most successful piece of work yet. It received an Edgar Award for best non-fiction book of the year. In 2006, this best-selling book was one of the top ten books of the year, according to “Entertainment Weekly Magazine”. Also, in 2009, “Newsweek Magazine” named Manhunt one of the best non-fiction books of all time, next to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

James L. Swanson is a wonderful author and he wouldn’t be where he is today without his abilities and experiences he’s been through. Without his past, Swanson wouldn’t be as excited about history as he is. If he didn’t  share his birthday with Lincoln, James wouldn’t have been introduced to our sixteenth president until much later. Without his great writing skills, James Swanson might not be the amazing writer and best-selling author we know him as. Currently, James L. Swanson, is still writing, and additionally is a Lincoln scholar, a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and is a part of the Ford’s Theater Society and serves on their advisory council. He is healthy at age fifty-five and resides in Washington D.C.

The Mind Behind "The President Has Been Shot!"