Diverse YA Recommendations

Over the past year, I’ve become extremely passionate about diversity in books. To the point that I did both a presentation and an essay on the topic last semester. Voluntarily. In the same timeframe. For two different classes. If that’s not passion, I don’t know what is.

Luckily, this long-term temper tantrum of mine lines up pretty well with a renaissance of diversity in young adult books. So if the Renaissance featured more teens taking down governments/discovering magic/having sassy banter-y conversations – and fewer really good paintings of fruit and Jesus and stuff.

I define diversity as representations of sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, cultures, genders, mental illnesses, disabilities, and body types that are marginalized or not typically represented in popular culture.

That being said, here are some of my favorite reads from this diversity quest!

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Representation: homosexuality, Latinx

This book follows Noah and Jude, who are ~twins~. It flashes back and forth between Noah’s perspective a few years back, and Jude’s perspective in the present. It is beautiful (in terms of the cover) and beautiful (in terms of the story) and beautiful (in terms of the characters) and and beautiful (in terms of the writing). Noah’s perspective largely follows his experience coming out. I’m a pretty big fan.


The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Representation: Asian, biracial

The Lunar Chronicles are a crazy, wild, fairytale retelling IN THE FUTURE. I’m talking moon residence, wolf-people, cyborgs, and futuristic spacecraft things. Plus Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. The on-earth setting is a future China, so a lot of Asian representation. The Snow White character, who is the most beautiful person in the galaxy (because this series takes place PARTIALLY IN SPACE), is half-black.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Representation: asexuality, transgender, nonbinary, mental health, POC

This is magical realism in which Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Narnia series are canon. Basically, children are falling through portals into fairytale worlds a lot. It boils down to magical boarding school + murder mystery, which would be amazing even if this weren’t diverse as all get out. The protagonist is asexual, one of the main characters is trans, and most everyone is of color and/or gender non-conforming and/or queer. There is also so much mental health rep. What I’m saying is this book puts every other book to shame.


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Representation: physical disability, POC, bisexuality, ADHD, homosexuality, dyslexia, body type

I am a person who enjoys entertainment, and therefore I’m a fan of heist plotlines. Even better than your Ocean’s Eleven is a high-fantasy heist planned by a gang of teen antiheroes with a super diverse lineup. The ragtag group of pals includes: a ringleader with a physical disability; a woman of color so sneaky she’s known as the Wraith; a sharpshooting bisexual man of color with ADHD; a gay man with dyslexia; and a curvy girl who can STOP PEOPLE’S HEARTS WITH MAGIC. I mean. Come on.


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Representation: homosexuality

This is essentially Harry Potter but if Drarry were canon. Thus, there are two types of reactions to this book: “this is literally Harry Potter and I’m mad about it” and “this is literally Harry Potter but not overwhelmingly straight and I’m big into it.” Choose your path and then read this book. Basically, in Rainbow Rowell’s contemporary Fangirl, main character Cath writes fan fiction for a series called Simon Snow. This is that fan fiction.


Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Representation: bisexuality, physical disability, asexuality, demiromantic, homosexuality

Considering I’ve never been big on circuses in my real actual life, it’s pretty surprising that I am the biggest fan of a circus setting on this entire planet. This book is dark high fantasy, a genre which is not for everyone (and sometimes not for me), but: circus. Bisexual protagonist with a physical disability. Asexual demiromantic love interest. Lesbian side character. And did I mention: circus.


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Representation: heterosexuality, POC

A classic read-this-book-before-the-movie-comes-out scenario. (The movie is called Love, Simon, it looks really good, and it comes out March 16. You don’t want to be the person who saw the movie without reading the book!) This follows Simon, a closeted gay teenager, as he anonymously falls in love with a mystery kid from his school over email. It’s the book equivalent of a warm cookie.

Standalone with spinoff(s)

From this newfound passion for YA diversity, I have one major takeaway: Diverse books are better. The characters are richer, the world is more full and realistic, and exploring other cultures and identities is fascinating no matter what the genre. Non-young adult books should take a hint from diverse YA.

And all the overwhelmingly white/straight/cisgender/traditionally abled young adult lit should, too. That’s why I’m planning to send all the books on this list to JK Rowling as soon as possible. 


Extreme Pinterest Writing Prompts

Hi, my name is Lily, and I’m addicted to Pinterest.

Specifically, I like to pin interesting writing prompts onto a board, and then never revisit them again. Seriously, who comes up with all these creative ideas? I’m lucky enough to be able to come up with one great idea for a story every millennium or so. I could probably have ten bestselling books right now if I actually just sat down and wrote utilizing these ideas.

Well, move over JK Rowling, because today, I’m actually going to do some writing, using Pinterest prompts as my sole inspiration. To raise the stakes a bit more, I’m going to limit myself to a mere 100 words… who doesn’t love a challenge? If you’d like to join me in this adventure, pick up a pen yourselves- or open a word doc if your hand forgets how to operate a writing utensil- and write along!

We’ll begin with this prompt:

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My hand is missing.

It happened so suddenly that I almost didn’t realize. No blood, no cracking of bones. The death of my hand was quick, surprisingly elusive.

I’ve been looking for it all over- under my bed, in the blender (sometimes I accidentally hit the ‘juice’ button at the worst times possible)- but it’s nowhere to be found.

This isn’t the first weird thing that’s happened. My hair falling out in clumps, teeth plummeting from my mouth… it’s all pointing to something more sinister than I care to admit.

The more she improves, the less of me there is.

Next up is a bit of dialogue to get inspired by:

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“Good morning,” he said. “I see the assassins have failed.”

I smirked. “You really thought you could get rid of me that quickly?”

He shrugged. “I had hoped to.”

I turned my back to him, returning to my katana. I ran a rag over the glinting blade, soaking up the blood it had reaped from my enemies. “You underestimate me, sir. I will beat every single test you throw at me; I will become the warrior you secretly want me to be.”

“We shall see about that,” he said. “Expect the next killers in thirty minutes. Have a lovely day.”

Now, a bit more of a general one. I chose a character who is feared by all.

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Lucifer won’t stop calling me. I swear, if he wasn’t already in hell, I’d send him there straight away.

It’s not like I haven’t been doing my job. There have been plenty of customers considering how often humans like to blow themselves- or each other- up. Practically every few minutes, I have to bounce to some far-off country and swing my scythe around like I’m Babe Ruth hitting home runs. The Middle East was pretty when I first visited, but now I’m getting sick of seeing its blood-spattered streets, hearing the screams.

Maybe I’m just tired of being Death.

Finally, we end with a picture prompt:

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He held her head in his hands.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered, “forget the gun. Forget them all.”

The two were standing in the middle of an arena, the enormous crowd shouting slurs down at them. His eardrums thundered with their grating voices, and he tried to instead listen to her ragged breathing.

“I won’t let this be the end,” she said, gripping onto the lapels of his jacket.

He felt the soldier behind him press the handgun harder against his skull, watched the soldier behind her do the same.

He kissed her forehead softly before it all went dark.

As you can see from this exercise, there are all sorts of different prompts to suit your needs. If you’re looking for some dialogue for your story, a picture to set the scene, or just something to journal about, there’s a prompt for you!

I have to say that the hardest part of this experience was writing succinctly. I am oftentimes a long-winded writer, doting on the tiny intricacies of the setting and characters of a story. This exercise showed me that it’s actually not that hard to communicate a lot of detail and information in as few words as possible. If you find yourself to be struggling with cutting down your writing, or are just looking for some interesting story starters, Pinterest writing prompts are a go-to solution. Happy writing!

Check out this Pinterest board for some more writing prompts.

Laptop Stickers are the Windows to the Soul

When I sit in class, I can’t help but wonder what the meaning behind the colorful stickers plastered on my peer’s laptops. Laptop stickers are a means of self-expression and even art. At school, I have seen my fair share of fascinating and quirky laptop decorations. These stickers are often very funny and have even funnier meanings and stories behind them. I decided to hunt down some particular interesting laptops and decipher the meaning behind their decals!


Me! – Freshman WLP Major: I started collecting stickers for my laptop over the summer and going into college. Over the summer I took a trip out west to different national parks such as Yosemite and Death Valley National Park, where I began to collect stickers from each location I traveled to. Travel and the environment are two essential elements of my life that I wanted to be reminded of. I also have a sticker of a wolf which I think to be my spirit animal (I may or may not have taken five personality tests to decipher this as well). Lastly, I put my Yeti water bottle sticker on my laptop to remind myself of the importance of hydration in addition to putting shame on myself for spending so much on a water bottle.


Hind Bakkali – Freshman International Business Major: I found Hind typing away on her laptop at Explorateur while sipping on her latte. Her laptop grabbed my attention; particularly with the very “mainstream” sticker choices such as of Kim Kardashian and Brandy Melville… I wanted to know more. She told me that she was an international student at Harvard majoring in international business, but didn’t specify where she was from. She started collecting her stickers last year when she started college. She described the skull from Brandy Melville as her style, and she identifies with the “queen bitch” sticker because she sees herself as just that. She also had a SoulCycle sticker because she is a fan of this exercise group.


Sallie Bieterman – Senior Theatre Arts Major: Sallie shows her Jewish pride with a sticker with the Jewish phrase “Oy Vey!”, and her love of Scotland with a Scotland sticker. She describes this sticker as “constantly my mood.” Sallie also worked at the women’s march headquarters in Washington DC, (hence her women’s march sticker. One of her stickers actually brought in a fellow stagedoor manor theatre camp participant. The girl saw her sticker through the window at Bolocco and told Sallie that she was going to be attending the camp soon. Ever since then, Sallie has been mentoring this girl.


Eric Doente – Freshman WLP Major: Eric didn’t have much to reveal about his mysterious stickers besides his favorite sticker, the banana sticker. He got it an an Aminé concert which was one of his favorite things he has done in Boston this year. You might know the song “Caroline” from this band.


Cassandra Yany – Freshman Journalism major: Cassandra is from Rhode Island, which is where her anchor and PV Donuts is from. PV Donuts is a popular donut shop in Rhode Island where she usually frequents when at home. Cassandra has a New York City sticker because she wants to work in NYC in a magazine someday. Lastly, she has a “Rep” (Reputation) sticker to show her love and undying support of Taylor Swift.


Jillian Stalker – Freshman VMA major: Jillian’s laptop was definitely the most minimalistic. Jillian admitted that she was very into minimalism, and the googly eyes were representative of her eccentric, spontaneous, and unique personality. I think that the googly eyes are a great conversation starter and are a play on her last name: “Stalker.”

Gaining some insight behind the mysterious stickers that find themselves on every millennial’s laptop proved to be a very interesting project. I always thought that the majority of stickers were random, but actually every sticker seems to have some sort of hidden meaning. The next time you are checking out some of those laptop stickers or buying some of your own, try to decipher the meaning behind them!

The Best Books of 2017

We’ve reached that time of year again. Tis the season of apocalyptic cold, delicious hot beverages, and songs that are only played for one month out of the year. But most importantly, it’s time for yearly wrap ups. There are approximately one billion book awards. It is genuinely impossible to keep track of them all.

So for anyone who makes it their business to read all of the variously-determined best books of the year, I’ve made a compilation of the big winners. This list includes the prestigious (the National Book Award; the Pulitzer Prize), the popular (the Goodreads Choice Awards), and those that are a mix of the two (the John Newbery medal; the New York Times best books).

Find the twelve best fiction, nonfiction, young adult/children’s, and poetry books of the year below.


Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

2017 National Book Award Winner for Fiction and the New York Times; Top 10 Best Books of the Year

Jesmyn Ward wrote a book in 2013 and it won the National Book Award. Then she took a quick four-year breather, wrote a book this year, and won the National Book Award again. She is the most talented and successful person in the world, probably. Sing, Unburied, Sing is the story of a Southern family, as well as the stories of race, America, struggle, and hope.


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The Pulitzer prizewinners are announced in April, so unless you spent the spring living under a rock you have probably heard of this one. The Underground Railroad follows the escape of two slaves in an altered history in which the underground railroad is a literal railroad underground. It explores questions relating to race, history, and oppression.



Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction

If I’ve learned one thing from compiling this list, it’s that people love stories about families. This book follows a few of them, as one couple’s attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby divides an entire community. Lots of gossip and drama and secrets in this one.



The Future is History by Masha Gessen

2017 National Book Award Winner for Nonfiction

It is suuuuper not surprising that this book would be an awards darling this year. Written by Vladimir Putin’s biographer, The Future is History follows Russia’s descent into autocracy as told through the lives of four people with great aspirations and great expectations upon them. It’s a cautionary tale, in other words, and people a) are freaked and b) love it. As if 2017 weren’t Russia-centric enough.


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

This guy’s a sociologist at Harvard and a MacArthur Genius grant recipient, so, uh. Reliable source. Desmond follows eight families in the poorest parts of Milwaukee and discovers the role that eviction, and the high housing costs that cause it, plays in modern American poverty.


How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life by Lily Singh

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Nonfiction

Hard to believe this is even in the same realm of existence as the prior two, but yes. They are the same genre. Written by YouTube star Lilly Singh (username ||Superwoman|| – do not forget the very important vertical lines), How to be a Bawse is a self-help book that promises to help you become just as confident/goal-reaching/smiley as Lilly herself. In other words, a bawse. So go get those millions of YouTube subscribers – they’re yours by right.



Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

2017 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature

Benway’s newest is a young adult contemporary following three biological siblings adopted into different families. As one puts her own baby up for adoption, she decides to track down her biological brother and sister, launching all three into questions of what family really means.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Winner of the John Newbery Medal for most distinguished children’s book

Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a children’s fairytale about Luna, who was accidentally fed moonlight by a witch when she was a baby, thus granting her magical powers. As she approaches her thirteenth birthday, the powers begin to emerge, and Luna must learn to use her new skills, and to protect those around her. (So it’s a coming of age thing except with magic.)


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction

Now, we must all say a silent prayer to whatever higher power we may believe in/the Internet/those who cast a vote/the entire literary industry that this book won. Instead of John Green. That man’s life is full enough and I am grateful this award went to a book that MEANS SOMETHING. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give follows Starr, a sixteen-year-old black private school student who witnesses the death of her unarmed friend at the hands of a police officer.



Half-Light by Frank Bidart

2017 National Book Award Winner for Poetry

Half-Light is a collection of all of Frank Bidart’s poetry, written over the course of four decades. As a poet, Bidart focuses on the human voice in all its diversity, allowing even the most terrible the same empathetic understanding. Bidart concludes the collection with a new volume, one filled with ruminations on his own life.


Olio by Tyehimba Jess

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Tyehimba Jess’s Olio weaves fact and fiction to detail the lives of African American performers from the Civil War up to World War I. The result is a look at the struggles of black artists to resist minstrelization, and the resilience it took to keep going.


The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry

Unsurprisingly, the mega-popular poet won the most popularity-oriented award. Rupi Kaur is likely the most known writer within the genre known as “instapoetry” or, more colloquially, “Tumblr poetry.” Her second volume, The Sun and Her Flowers, focuses on themes of growth, ancestry, and home.

For more information:

The Goodreads Choice Awards

The New York Times Top 10 Books of 2017

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners

The John Newbery Medal

The National Book Award

Must Watch Female-Led Netflix Originals

With the amount of coverage about severe misconduct in the entertainment business, the industry has obtained a bleak shadow over its content. It’s easy to get caught up in the scandal and think poorly towards the industry, thinking nothing good can come from these tragedies.

To combat these thoughts, some lean towards distraction to ease their minds. Netflix has become a great tool for distraction, but, with so much content and so little time, it might be difficult to sort through the binge-worthy content to completely immerse oneself in the television world. But, in relation to the allegations being exposed every day, let’s focus on shows specifically led by females. Let’s focus on the ones that uplift the female protagonist rather than make the female “lead” a side character or a mere plot device.

So, here are some of the best and some new Netflix Originals with strong female leads.

Jessica Jones (1 Season)

Arguably one of the best shows currently on Netflix, Jessica Jones defied expectations upon release. With great action and a stellar lead by Krysten Ritter, the show has yet to be beaten by any other Marvel show. Over the span of the series, private investigator Jessica Jones must defeat Kilgrave (David Tennant), a mysterious man from her past that continues to threaten her, no matter what she does. With diverse and complex themes and storylines, the show doesn’t cease to amaze, making it highly addictive. It’s easy to fall in love with the character of Jessica Jones, despite her misdoings. The show’s premise should be kept mysterious to keep intrigue and to keep the show from getting spoiled so there won’t be much more said about the plot, but this is definitely a must-watch, even if for those who aren’t necessarily a superhero fan. Though there are obviously superhuman abilities within the show – Jessica herself has super-strength – it doesn’t get bogged down with the super-ness and focuses on characters and each of stories rather than making it merely about the action of it all. To put it simply, it is a fantastic show that is easily binge-able. Also, the second season is currently in production, so it’s not too late to get caught up before the next season’s premiere.

Wanted (2 Seasons)

This series came up seemingly out of nowhere, but it definitely one to watch. Wanted follows Lola (Rebecca Gibney) and Chelsea (Geraldine Hakewill), two strangers who witness a murder together when waiting for the bus. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the two get kidnapped and then blamed for a murder they didn’t commit. Seeing the two female characters bond and, ultimately, show their strengths in their best ways is refreshing, especially since romance is not the prime reason for their partnership. While the two definitely have their weaknesses, they also have qualities that make them stand out from the typical female protagonist. Lola and Chelsea allow themselves to be imperfect since perfection is not a reality. It’s nice to see a realistic portrayal of female leads rather than forcing them to be the best people in the world. Their flaws make them intriguing and make viewers yearn for more.

Alias Grace (Limited Series)

A newer series, Alias Grace is a Margaret Atwood adaptation about Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a woman accused of a murder she does not remember committing. Ten years after her sentencing, she is approached by Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), who wants to help her regain her memories of the day she supposedly committed the murder. Since it seems as if men lead every show about crime, this one with a female protagonist is a great sight to see. The mystery of whether she committed the crime creates that tension that’s so intriguing, making the audience wish for immediate answers.

Godless (Premieres November 22)

This compelling series looks to be a great new addition to Netflix’s already great resume of originals. Taking place during the 1880s in the Midwest, Godless centers around the town of La Belle, New Mexico, a town that Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell) discovers is completely run and made up of women. Though this is all that has been released about the series, the interest is still rampant on this show. With a great cast – including Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery – and an idea that begs to be seen on television, Godless could be Netflix’s best next series. Thinking about the time period and pairing it with this concept of a town led entirely by women makes for great drama and action to come.

She’s Gotta Have It (Premieres November 23)

Based on his 1986 film of the same name, Spike Lee returns with his new show, She’s Gotta Have It. The series follows Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise), who has three lovers: Greer (Cleo Anthony), Jamie (Lyriq Bent), and Mars (Anthony Ramos). Looking to be yet another great new Netflix Original, She’s Gotta Have It takes the typical romance and turns it on its head. Instead of having a woman chase a singular man, Nola is strong and firm in her own beliefs. She appears to be a great and complex character, making her an example to follow for future female leads in television. Though not much is known about this series as well, it’s a great sight to see a female character so different from anything else seen on recent television. Hopefully, it will bring a new perspective to femininity and allow people to hear new voices of those like Nola.

It’s stressing to see so many entertainers being accused of horrible things. So, let’s focus on the female protagonist for a change. Let’s uplift the image of women in television, ones who are strong and prove that female-led TV works. Netflix has been great at providing this kind of content; let’s boost its popularity and give these women the acknowledgment they deserve.

The Beginner’s Guide to True Crime Podcasts

True crime is everywhere. It seems as if ever since the hit podcast Serial and Netflix series Making a Murderer, people have been fascinated with the nonfiction genre. True crime, in essence, studies real life crime, mostly in the form of murder. Though gruesome at times, it can be highly addicting, with consumers asking questions, wondering how someone could commit murder and, above all, why someone would do such a thing.

For those looking for the next Serial, it can be overwhelming with the high amount of true crime podcasts available today. So, here are some podcast recommendations for all of the truce crime fans out there.

With the topic of true crime, it should be mentioned that there is content in each of these podcasts that might be a trigger for some individuals. In many of the podcasts listed, there can be instances that might be too graphic and, just plainly, hard to listen to. Due to this, be extremely cautious around the subject and take care in choosing what you choose to hear.

My Favorite Murder // Weekly Minisodes on Mondays and Full Episodes on Thursdays // 131 Episodes // 30-40 minute Minisodes and 60-120 minute Full Episodes // Website

Taking a more relaxed approach to true crime, the comedy podcast, “My Favorite Murder,” is a great starting point for those who are just beginning to listen to true crime, as they don’t necessarily go too deep into the facts. Though it might be bothersome to those who would rather go in-depth into a story, the hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are charming and, just plainly, hilarious, making the podcast definitely worth the listen. Coming out with episodes every Tuesday and Thursday, Kilgariff and Hardstark tell stories about murders, both cold cases and solved cases alike, and produce a commentary on the case at hand. Not only that, but they also discuss their personal lives and share their love for the subject by recommending other true crime media, wanting to be interactive with the mass audience around the world. In fact, every other episode is a minisode, where they read emails from fans about their hometown murders. The community around the podcast as a whole is truly great and interacting with fellow “murderinos,” as fans are called, makes the entire experience worth the listen.

Where to Start: Episode 10 – “Murderous TENdencies,” Episode 23 – “Making a Twenty-Thirderer”

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts 

Dirty John – Completed Mini-Series // 6 Episodes // 40-56 minutes // Website

This podcast just ended its six-week run but binging it is more than worth it. In collaboration with the LA Times, Dirty John tells the story of a woman who starts to date a mysterious man from a dating site. Though he appears to be the man of her dreams, her children are suspicious and immediately worried for their mother’s well being. What unfolds is a crazy, unpredictable true story that can be classified as an online dating horror story. In an attempt to not include spoilers, that’s all that can be said, but the series is, arguably, one of the best of the year with it captivating story-telling and, ultimately, unbelievable series of events.

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, LA Times, Wondery

Sword and Scale – Biweekly on Mondays // 101 Episodes // 60-75 minutes // Website

With its declaration at the beginning of each episode, “A show that reveals that the worst monsters are real,” Sword and Scale takes things to the next level by producing haunting true crime events that can shake anyone to the core. While each episode varies in content, one thing is certain: there are truly terrifying people in this world. With many instances of extremely serious subject matter, it can truly be a hard podcast to listen to; however, what makes Sword and Scale stand out is that it’s more than just a commentary-style podcast. It goes deep into the case of the episode by including evidence like 9-11 calls, interviews, press conferences and more, and the host Mike Boudet even sometimes holds his own personal interviews with those affected by the crime at hand. With each unique episode, you never know what you’re going to get, and you never know what kind of horrors are lurking through your everyday life.

Where to Start: Episodes 33 and 34

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Sword and Scale Website

Stranglers – Completed Mini-Series // 12 Episodes // 50 minutes // Website

As another completed mini-series, Stranglers follows the Boston Strangler. Though the case is 55 years old, the case has never been fully solved. This podcast attempts a new investigation into the mysterious circumstances of the crimes of the infamous serial killer. It’s extremely easy to get addicted to the podcast, with its professional and sleek production and its intriguing interviews. Instead of only focusing on the suspects and the case itself, Stranglers also goes into the journalists who broke the case and the victims themselves. The new take on the familiar format is refreshing, despite the case’s old age.

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Earwolf, Google Play, Stitcher

Honorable Mention: Lore – Biweekly on Mondays // 71 Episodes // 30 minutes // Website

Though not necessarily a “true crime” podcast, Lore still produces the same kind of fascinating stories that any true crime lover can listen to. Every episode, host Aaron Mahnke spins a tale of folklore with subjects ranging from creepy creatures to haunted houses to suspiciously dark unsolved murders from places around North America and Europe, but primarily around the New England area. (Fun fact: Boston is a frequent location and the podcast even mentions Emerson in Episode 55.) Lore has received tremendous praise for its beautiful writing by Mahnke and the haunting score that plays in the background, creating a wonderfully mesmerizing podcast. In fact, Lore is so popular that the show has its own anthology series, which is now available on Amazon Prime. The production is incredible from episode one and, so far, Lore doesn’t cease to impress.

Where to Start: “Episode 8: The Castle,” “Episode 27: On the Farm”

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Google PlayLore Website

With the amount of true crime entertainment, it may be worrisome that creators haven’t run out of content. Nevertheless, the fascination is still apparent and ever-present. Whether listening during a long commute or doing errands or getting ready for the day, the podcast medium can be a great way to soothe that addiction for the true crime lovers out there.

Halloweekend 2017: Celebrating the Best of Horror

Let’s face it. Horror movies have a bad reputation. Recently, the genre has consisted of either a remake, a sequel, or, just plainly, an unoriginal, uninspired horror flick. In that way, it’s easy to forget how impactful horror films really were to the industry. Horror filmmakers weren’t afraid to break barriers and cause controversy. Because of these achievements, they have inspired countless horror films to this day, but, at times, it’s hard to find those original ideas.

So, this Halloween, celebrate the old and the new. This year, since Halloween is on a Tuesday, the “Halloweekend” is October 28-30. Each day represents a different horror subgenre and brings two films: the horror movies that have influenced many, and the newer horror comedies that prove that horror can still be original.

Friday, October 28 – Slasher Film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

The slasher film is probably what most people think of when a horror movie comes to mind. With so many out there, there are many patterns that far and few have been able to break. However, all of those – now redundant – patterns can be traced back to one film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Before even classics like Halloween and Friday the 13th, Texas Chain Saw Massacre was the film that shocked and scared audiences everywhere – and still to this day. Not only does the killer himself terrify, but also the ambiance of the film. The direction of each element made a perfect horror film and still holds validity today. Without this classic, the genre would be entirely different – maybe even unrecognizable. Until then, not many took the risk of adding the immense amount of gore and intensity that Texas Chain Saw Massacre possesses. It definitely didn’t hold back on its general grotesque nature. Its mark is definitely seen in a numerous amount of films, including the next pick: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. This movie, in a word, is absurd. There is no denying that this is a goofy, unpredictable, crazy film. Even the title is questionable. Nevertheless, the hilarity is undeniable. Each and every turn the movie takes is absolute insanity, but that’s what makes the film great. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a satire of the “cabin in the woods” slasher film but doesn’t rely on overused jokes that can be seen in any Scary Movie comedy. Though not the greatest in the world, it’s still a fun watch, especially after viewing a film so gory and menacing.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available on Amazon Prime and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is available on Hulu and Netflix.

Saturday, October 29 – Gothic Horror: Nosferatu (1922) and What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

The next day centers around a creature that has been, perhaps, over-utilized over the past ten years: the vampire. Though the Twilight and True Blood series have made the monster into a love story, there was a time when people thought the creature was utterly horrifying – that time, of course, being in the 1920s. Nevertheless, Nosferatu is nothing short of a groundbreaking horror film in the silent era. Though it may not be everybody’s first choice for being on a horror movie list, the film still has its qualities that can get under a person’s skin. The film has inspired not only horror films but the film industry in general. Its ability to still be recognizable today, despite being made nearly 100 years ago, shows just how iconic the film really is. There are even elements of it in the other pick of the day: What We Do in the Shadows. Not only is it hilarious, but it is, arguably, one of the most underrated horror comedy films in recent history. The New Zealand film is a mockumentary on three vampires and, though it’s set in the modern world, these vampires are still stuck in the past. While still being able to have its fair share of scares, What We Do in the Shadows uses its smart wit and charm to its advantage, creating a fantastic balance of horror and comedy that not many are able to achieve. These two vampire features break the mold of the now repetitive vampire film and instead allow more originality in the genre, both with a classic and a dark comedy from 2014.

Nosferatu and What We Do in the Shadows are both available on Amazon Prime.

Sunday, October 30 – Movie Monsters: Night of the Living Dead (1968) and An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Ending the weekend is a pair of cult classics that have made their marks in cinema history. Featuring iconic movie monsters, they both changed the genre and the icon of their respective creatures for years to come. To start, Night of the Living Dead revolutionized the horror genre with its gory spectacle and grisly depictions of the zombie. Similar to what Texas Chain Saw Massacre did to slasher films, Night of Living Dead not only rejuvenated and recreated the zombie creature but also made its mark on horror film history by influencing many horror films known and loved today. Though an independent film, it was able to reach to wider audiences and allowed a breakthrough for horror that continued for years to come. Director George A. Romero’s reimagination of the zombie is what the modern iteration is based on, proving his contribution to the creature as a whole. The second movie also benefited from the film in that filmmakers were no longer afraid to show the far darker and grislier side of horror. An American Werewolf in London epitomizes the horror comedy in that it perfectly blends the two completely different genres, but it is definitely creepier than what a conventional movie in the genre would look like. It’s dark and, at times, even a little uncomfortable to watch with its captivating creature designs. Being one of the few horror films to have won an Academy Award, this film is credited as being one of the biggest achievements in makeup in film. Headed by Rick Baker, it was the first film to receive the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar and was the makeup artist’s first of a record seven wins. The iconic transformation of the protagonist from man to werewolf is gruesome, yet utterly hypnotizing. It’s mind-boggling to think this was made 36 years ago with practical effects, making it, possibly, one of the best visual effects achievements of all time. The transformation scene alone makes it worth the watch, but the entire film deserves its spot because of its great impact on the horror comedy genre for years to come.

Night of the Living Dead is available on Amazon Prime and An American Werewolf in London is available on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Though horror does have a stigma for being cheesy or rudimentary, there are still gems that prove that the genre can produce legitimate films for critics and for audiences. There is no denying that horror films are still a staple of the film industry and should be celebrated as such. Yes, there are many bad horror flicks to choose from and, ultimately, laugh at, but, this Halloween, celebrate the ones that were able to change how people thought of the genre.

How to Escape Your Syllabus Prison

College. It’s supposed to be the time when you find yourself, when you make your lifelong friends, when you come to terms with the fact that you’re going to be in debt forever and you’d best get used to the taste of ramen noodles because that’s about as close to luxury as it’s going to get for the next couple of decades. Yes, college is all of these things, but college is also something else.

It’s a two-to-four year period when you have so much assigned reading that it feels like if one more word is transferred from the page to your brain you may explode. So how, pray tell, is reading anything not listed on a syllabus possible when every day is an increased risk to your body’s stability?

It requires sacrifice. But not soul-sacrifice, thankfully, because the ability to find time to read for pleasure would be a fairly mundane thing for which to sell your soul. Save that for the big leagues.


1. Prioritize Reading

Between homework, studying, essays, socializing, and some light witchcraft, free time can be tough to find for a college student. This is already horrible because free time is the best time, but it’s even worse because getting free time when you aren’t used to it is a weird amount of pressure. For me, it usually goes something like this:

I have some time! Sick. I’ll just check in on a few things on my laptop….Oh, three years have passed? I’m now legally missing? So much time has gone by that the motivation to search is fading in the hearts of those who love me? Right, of course.

To avoid this Rip van Winkle-esque experience, pick up a book immediately. Your phone can tear that book from your cold dead hands.

You may even have to pass on social plans in order to read, which is always weird. RSVPing “nah” in order to read is so profoundly dorky that the person you are politely rejecting may struggle to conceptualize just what this means. But the only way out is through, my friend, and if you just keep on being a full-on dweeb once in a while your loved ones will take the hint. And maybe even remain in your life if you’re lucky.

2. Carry a Book with You

There are approximately one million pockets of time during the typical class day during which you can read at least a couple paragraphs. Examples: arriving to class early, one of those weird breaks very kind professors occasionally grant midway through a class, when that one student who answers every question finally fulfills their dream of forcing two dozen sleepy young adults to listen to them for a few minutes. This can be prime reading time if you have a book, or an e-book app on your phone, if you happen to be a person who reads for the content and not for the experience of a physical book.

3. Traveling

One fact of life is that people go places. If you are ever going to a place and you are not controlling a vehicle or the movement of your own legs, this is a good time to read. If you live off campus and commute to class on a train or bus or whatever – boom, reading time! If you live far away and find yourself on a plane – that’s reading time, baby. Take advantage!

4. Keep a List and Read Good Stuff ONLY

This point really only needs to be the length of a link, and that link is goodreads.com. Learn it, live it, love it. Make a list of 500 books you’re excited to read and then realize you’ll never have time to read all of them.

5. Try Different Formats

Audiobooks are technically books, and you can do more activities while you read them. You can keep e-books on your phone or laptop or even an e-reader if you time traveled from 2007, and then they’re everywhere you are. Two win-win situations.

Really, finding time to read is a personal thing. This is my way of saying, “Do not blame me if this doesn’t work. You have to do this yourself, and also I just tricked you into reading this whole entire post only to find out that it may not help you at all.” But I hope it does. Happy reading!

How Musical Theatre Shaped Who I Am

I started theatre at the age of nine and continued with it until the age of 18. I always felt happiest up on stage in front of an audience. Theatre forced me to become comfortable in front of large amounts of people very early on which boosted my confidence more than I ever knew.

I never really had dreams of being on Broadway, my goal for each show was to do my personal best. I love going back and watching old DVD’s because my stage presence gets significantly better every show. Theatre is an amazing way to boost self confidence because the audience gives so much reassurance about what you are doing. It is not easy as a nine-year-old to remember choreography, song lyrics, and lines, but I have seen so many young kids perfect their performance in the end. It’s impossible to tell what you’re capable of before your first performance but once you leave it all on the stage you feel an instant wave of relief and accomplishment.

The Spring after my freshman year of high school I was nominated for EMACT’S (Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres) Best Young Actress award which was a high point of my theatre career. It was for my role as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. The nomination came as quite a surprise to me and I felt elated to attend the award gala and see many other talented actors. 13-year-old Hannah did not exactly feel at place in a room surrounded by much older actors  who had been performing longer than I had been alive. Looking around me and realizing that I was being recognized side by side with so many other amazing people made me hold my head up a little higher and smile a little brighter. Although I did not win the award, being recognized for doing what you love is always an achievement in itself. The nomination showed me that what I was doing was meaningful not only to myself, but to others. I had always felt a little different being a theatre kid and never getting involved with sports so this source of validation made a big difference in my social development in high school.

Through the Easton Children’s Theatre I was able to perform for nine years as well as become an assistant director for about five years. I helped out with two musicals during the year and over the summer I was a counselor for a four week camp that resulted in a completed musical. This opportunity allowed me to choreograph many shows and help young actors between the ages of 9 and 15 sharpen their acting skills and gain confidence on stage. It is amazing how much a young actor can change between their audition and opening night. The amount of joy I feel watching a completed show has brought me to tears multiple times because I feel so much pride in the actors. I wouldn’t trade my theatre experience for anything in the world and I would do anything to relive every show I directed one more time.

Flash forward to my senior year of high school, I knew that my theatre career was coming to a close. My major was declared at Emerson and I wasn’t too sad about my final curtain call at my high school musical. Theatre was the right choice for me throughout high school and I did not regret any of the late night choreography sessions or stressful dress rehearsals. To all of the theatre kids out there, you are making the best decision by sticking with it and performing on a stage. You will carry the skills and confidence with you for the rest of your life and it will bring you many, many opportunities (theatre related or not) in the future.

Because of musical theatre, I am now able to speak in front of crowds, hold myself with poise, and watch young actors grow  with my guidance. When I start to reminisce on my theatre experience I miss it more and more. There is absolutely nothing else like live theatre which makes the feeling irreplaceable in my heart. I hope one day I will step foot on a stage because I really do still hear it calling my name.

Being a Non-Music-Major Pianist

I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. My childhood was more so a series of staffs, black notes and complex finger patterns than it was words or steps. I learned music as a third language (after English and Tamil), and it brought me a type of simultaneous joy and frustration that nothing else in the world brings me. It’s the fire that lights my every move.

I was 5 years old was when my parents drove me to my first piano lesson. I’d be lying if I said I remembered it like it was yesterday because I don’t recall it at all. I prefer it that way; it wasn’t some huge moment in my life. Instead, it was just what was meant to happen, simple as that. I’ve had 3 piano teachers in my life, each one growing in difficulty and sternness as I, too, grew. Although I don’t remember these first few piano lessons, I will never forget that rush when I’d struggle through a piece and make it through without a single false note. That rush started in my belly and glowed all the way up my esophagus. It was a pride like none other.

After those many years of youth piano books, I finally got into the good stuff. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and, my favorite of all, Tchaikovsky. I wasn’t anywhere near being a perfect pianist. Every piece I learned was tough, and I suffered through misplaced fingers, misread notes and misunderstood key signatures. I was so beyond frustrated. All I wanted was to be a piano maestro, taking one look at a page and playing it as fluently as I can speak a passage of the English language. All my friends were playing pop music in their lessons, and I craved the ease of Adele’s chords under my fingertips. I lost sight of the treasure that was classical piano.

What had always discouraged me from being the best pianist I could be was the fact that I knew deep down I didn’t need to be, even if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning on majoring or minoring in any music-related fields. Music was my past and present, but it was sadly not my future. So the hours when I should’ve been practicing my concertos and sonatas, I was instead grabbing iced coffee with my best friends, scribbling out my Calculus homework or researching about and applying to colleges. I had lost my innate passion for music and, rather, treated it like an annoying chore. I instead focused my energies on playing simple chords to my favorite radio songs and singing along to them with my friends. I spent most of my high school career partaking in open mic nights and talent shows, always accompanying myself and my friends on those trusty keys.

It had been a long time since I had played my classical pieces, and I mean really play them. I quit piano lessons by the end of my senior year of high school, preparing for the inevitable move to Boston. My beautiful, rich piano books began collecting dust in the corner of my living room at home, aching for their pages to be turned and set up against the piano stand. But I was a Marketing Communications major, now, and I had no business playing piano.

It was a few weeks ago when I came home for a weekend and went over to my living room (a.k.a. The music room). I play piano often when I come home, but typically Ingrid Michaelson or Ed Sheeran sheet music that I pull up on my laptop. This time, however, I picked up my favorite piano book, Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. It’s a collection of twelve pieces for every month of the year. I set open the book to January: At The Fireside and began stumbling through the notes. That rush from my belly to my esophagus returned instantaneously. I felt alive.

The point is that music should never have a life sentence. Music lessons are not for children and young adults, until they frolic away to college. Music is not just for the Music majors. There is something so soothing and electrifying about really playing music and forcing yourself through those tricky pieces. I feel the best musician when my eyes glaze over staring at the measures of black notes, sharps, and flats and when I have to keep restarting a measure. It’s when I am the most determined, confident, and focused. It has shaped every aspect of my life, making me a more attuned person. Even though I am no professional maestro, I know I am still a pianist.