Tag Archives: books

My Top Five Mystery Books

I’ve always been into mystery books. It started with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, which my mom used to read to me when I was younger. I had a little “Choose Your Own Adventure” mystery book that I read until it almost fell apart. As I grew older, I turned to Agatha Christie, my mom’s favorite mystery writer. Her detail-oriented, gripping plots always have a very strong hold on my attention, and I absolutely flew through them. Agatha Christie solidified my love for mystery and encouraged me to expand into different authors and variations. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top five mystery books.

  1. Big Little Lies

TW: Sexual Assault and Abuse

This is such a wonderful book and a great show adaptation that was turned into a really good miniseries with Reese Witherspoon! It’s a genuine page turner, and it has so much to offer. The story is about three women – Celeste, Madeline, and Jane – who live in Australia. One of the women’s husbands has recently died, and there is a lot of suspense and mystery around his death. If you like stories with a lot of preschool mommy drama, this one may be for you. It’s a really intense book for sure, so be sure to make certain that the content is okay for you!

  1. Sharp Objects

TW: Self Harm, Drug and Alcohol Abuse

This book is extremely disturbing. It’s about a series of deaths in the main character’s small-town childhood home that cause her to come back home to write a story. She is again confronted by her childhood trauma at home and attempts to deal with that while also writing this story.  I didn’t exactly like this writing style, but the plot made up for it. I was hooked until the end, and the ending was so creepy that I was scared to go outside in the dark for days after finishing it. However, the plot is well crafted, and the small subtleties really make it an interesting read!

  1. The Girl on the Train

TW: Alcoholism, Violence and Abuse

This is a really intense story. It’s full of deceit and cheating, and it’s absolutely a page-turner. There was so much mystery and so many twists that kept me guessing right up until the end. This one was also turned into a really great film adaptation starring Emily Blunt. It’s about a woman who watches two families through the window of a train every day and ends up witnessing a murder that she can hardly remember. There’s a lot of complexity to this book, and it certainly deals with some heavy topics, so be mindful of that before reading!

  1. Five Little Pigs

I absolutely love Agatha Christie. She never fails with her dramatic reveals and explanations at the end of every mystery. Poirot, the detective, is one of my favorite characters ever, and he’s just so observant. Every little subtle comment matters, and that’s what makes this book so wonderful. It’s about a woman who is seeking to clear her mother’s name many years after her mother was found guilty of killing her father when she was younger. It’s a very good read, as are most Agatha Christie novels, and one of my favorites.

  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

TW: Sexual Assault and Incest

This book was a lot. It was suspenseful, complicated and very disturbing. The general premise is that the grandfather of a girl who went missing a long time ago employs a prominent investigative journalist and a rebellious PI to solve the case. The story has

been adapted into two different movies, both of which are quite good. It’s full of twists, and I’d be surprised if anyone figured out the true culprit before it was revealed!

Featured Image by Allison Geddie

5 Austin organizations you should know about

With so many in-person events and opportunities growing, it can be easy for people to feel like things are returning to “normal.” However, it is undeniable that many people have had an especially difficult time these past two years. Yet, we have seen the worst of situations and the power of compassion.

Here are some charity and nonprofit organizations that you should check out and lend a helping hand if you find yourself in the position to contribute to something you support.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes

This organization supports the homeless community in Austin by reconnecting each person’s sense of self and community. They also have volunteer opportunities available, so be sure to check them out and learn more!

CASA of Travis County

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Travis County connects volunteer advocates to a Hispanic child in the child welfare system. Their aim is to protect the children’s best interests by training volunteers to advocate for them in the legal system and community.

Casa Marianella

This nonprofit provides shelter and support for immigrants, and they report to shelter an average of 325 people each year. Residents live in home-like facilities until they can become independent again.

Out Youth

Out Youth is an organization that serves Texas LGBTQIA+ youth by providing a safe space for the youth and resources for parents and other community members. They also have a therapist network that follows something close to a “pro-bono” model to give youth an opportunity they would otherwise not be able to afford.

Inside Books Project

Inside Books Project sends free books and other reading materials to prisoners in Texas in order to promote literacy and education and teach the general public about incarceration issues. Once the books are received, incarcerated individuals can keep the books. This organization highlights the benefits of literacy post-incarceration, especially since prison education programs have received less funding in the past.

If you would like to give to any of these organizations, click on the title name of each organization to be led to their web pages for more information about how you can help, and check out the rest of their social media!

Remember that there are tons of other organizations meant to help various communities in Austin, and learning about how they change people’s lives is a great way to get started if you cannot help them right now!

Visual created by Briana Martinez

Young Adult Novels to Read this Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Even though the month is over, there are still so many ways to celebrate the variety of Hispanic cultures in the world. Along with all the foods, festivals, movies and music that encapsulate Hispanic culture, books are another great way to celebrate Hispanic stories. 

Hispanic authors have many stories and perspectives to share that give insight to the beautiful cultures and the many issues that Hispanic people still grapple with. The best part is that there are way more books based on Hispanic characters than in previous years, so what better way to celebrate the month than to read a book about it?

1. Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

According to the GoodReads synopsis, Fat Chance Charlie Vega is the coming of age story of “a fat, brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb.” Charlie is a high school student who tries to improve her relationships with her body, mother and the loss of her father. Throughout the book, Charlie learns to love herself, her parents, her body and her Puerto Rican culture. 

2. Love in English by Maria E Andreu

Love in English is a story loosely based on the author’s life wherein a 16-year-old girl named Ana moves with her mom to the United States from Argentina. Her father has been living in the States for the past two years and is helping Ana and her mom adapt to their new lifestyle, but Ana has a very hard time adjusting. She struggles to understand the English language, American culture and the kids around her.She also has to navigate the fragile balance between her Argentenian and American identities. As she makes friends at her school, Ana discovers herselfand finds community in the people that she connects with. 

3. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising is loosely based on the life of the author’s grandmother. The story depicts the life of Esperanza, a 13-year-old girl from Aguascalientes, Mexico, who grew up on her family’s successful ranch. When her father passes away and her uncle threatens to take everything her family has, she and her mom escape to California during the Great Depression and settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza’s life turns upside down and she learns just what it takes to work hard, keep her family close and rise above her difficult circumstances.

4. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is about Julia, a girl who grew up in a Mexican-American home in Chicago who grieves the loss of her older sister, Olga. Olga was the perfect Mexican-American daughter, at least more than Julia, or so Julia thought. After Olga passes in a tragic accident, Julia tries to learn more about her sister’s life and if either of them were able to live to the impossible standard of being the perfect daughter.

5. Clap When you Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land, tells the story of two sisters, one in New York and the other in the Dominican Republic, who learn the other exists only after the passing of their father. Despite being separated by distance, the two girls’ lives change forever when the loss of their father leads them to one other.

6. Sanctuary by Abby Sher and Paola Mendoza

This dystopian-like novel tells the tale of Vali, a 16-year-old undocumented girl living in the United States in 2032. In this futuristic version of the U.S., citizens are chipped and tracked. Vali and her family have counterfeit chips that one day malfunction and the family is confronted by Deportation Forces, causing them to flee to a sanctuary state. Along the journey, Vali’s mother is detained and Vali is faced with carrying her brother across the country to safety.

7. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet is a girl from the Bronx who just came out to her parents who didn’t take the news so lightly. When Juliet lands her dream internship working for the author of her favorite book in Portland, Oregon, she takes a chance and makes the journey. Over the summer and the course of the internship, Juliet learns how to navigate her identity as a Puerto Rican lesbian. 

Celebrating Hispanic stories is one of the best ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! There are a plethora of stories out there celebrating our diverse cultures and rich stories. Whether you read them on the pages of a book or see them on the screen of your favorite streaming platform, they are a window into the beauty of the Hispanic experience. Even as Hispanic Heritage Month winds to a close, it’s always a great time to celebrate Hispanic stories.

Featured image by Rebecca Hernandez

The Downfall of The Young Adult Film Genre

It happened swiftly and quietly, what was once a box office hit became a box office flop, leaving those who can remember wondering — what happened to those “Divergent” films?

Following the global success of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”, studios ran to the nearest bookstore to find the next young adult series they could turn into a movie franchise. Out came, “The Hunger Games”, “Divergent” and “The Maze Runner.” They were making money, had massive fan bases and showed promise for a compelling franchise, but unfortunately as quickly as YA films came, they went. One series didn’t even properly wrap up.

It was “Divergent”, so if you’re wondering what happened to those films the answer is they never released the last film.

Was “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” a two-time miracle, or are there specific reasons for why the YA genre has all but disappeared.

Illustration by Serena Rodriguez

 Here’s a look at some potential explanations for what happened to YA films.

Too Much of the Same Thing

The films mentioned were not just picked because they were the biggest examples, but also because they showcase one of the biggest problems with YA films. It’s all the same. If you’ve seen all three films the similarities are painfully obvious, all three take place in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian world where the government is corrupt and it’s up to teenagers to save the day. Two of the films feature zombie-like creatures, and two of them feature a special group of people the government wants to weed out. Two films also have the government putting teenagers in a deadly simulated environment and watch them as they fight to survive. Once is good, twice is fine, three times is far too many to see the same concepts just with a few tweaks here and there. Originality always wins in the end, and these films lacked it.

Bad Reviews

In the age of social media, word of mouth and critic reviews can make or break a movie. Some YA films maintain good to average critical scores throughout their run, and others were just bad from the get go. 

Rotten Tomato Review Score

  • “The Hunger Games”: 84%
  • “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”: 90%
  • “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”: 69%
  • “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2: 70%
  • “Divergent”: 42%
  • “The Divergent Series: Insurgent”: 28%
  • “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”: 11%
  • “The Maze Runner”: 65%
  • “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”: 46%
  • “Maze Runner: The Death Cure”: 43%

 YA films just have a bad reputation when it comes to reviews, audiences don’t want to see bad movies and studios don’t want to make them.

Poor Box Office

There are many driving forces towards making a movie, and the biggest is money. In times when Walt Disney Studios is making a few billion dollars a year, studios are aiming to make movies to compete and make them just as much (with the exception of horror and indie films). For a time YA films did just that, and then they didn’t.

YA Box Office Gross (Worldwide) via Box Office Mojo

  • “The Hunger Games”: $694,394,724
  • “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”: $865,011,746
  • “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”: $753,356,711
  • “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2”: $658,344,137
  • “Divergent”: $288,885,818
  • “The Divergent Series: Insurgent”: $297,002,527
  • “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”: $179,246,868
  • “The Maze Runner”: $348,319,861
  • “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”: $312,296,056
  • “Maze Runner: The Death Cure”: $288,175,335

Why didn’t “Divergent” make the last film? It was because of the poor box office performance of “Allegiant”. Soon enough it was clear that YA films weren’t the big hits they used to be, truly marking the end of the genre.

There have been more attempts at YA films with “The Darkest Minds” and “Mortal Engines”, but unfortunately both films were critically panned and turned out to be major box office bombs. The YA genre may not work with film, but it’s certainly making its mark in TV with “Riverdale” and Netflix’s new show “Outer Banks.” Maybe YA does have a home after all.