Favorite Book to Movie 2017

By: Fiona Schneider

My favorite book-to-movie adaptation of 2017 is Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, hands down. No competition whatsoever. To iterate how passionate I am about this movie, when I first saw the trailer for it in theaters before watching Captain America: Civil War the year before, I actually cried. Now I didn’t sob or anything, but it was so emotionally impactful and I was simply so excited that I started to tear up right there in the movie theater. My love of the film has only grown since.

hiddenfigures.jpgI avidly kept track of new trailers and press releases for no other reason than to read the release date again and again. While I did know a bit about the real life events behind Hidden Figures, I didn’t know that the film was based on a book until seeing the ending credits of the trailer that display the whole “based on this book” spiel. Of course, I bought the book. Hidden Figures is the ONLY book I own where I purposely bought the movie cover because I love it so much.

I don’t even know if I have enough words to explain why this movie is so spectacular. To give a few details for those who may not know about the plot, Hidden Figures focuses on the brilliant black women who helped calculate and solve issues for NASA in order to put a man on the moon. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are the characters the film focuses most on. The film delves highly into racial and gender issues that occur in society, and especially in the workforce. Besides how moving the film is, it is simply an important cultural film that displays some of the diversity in the United States’ history, which many people often overlook or are made to believe never happened. Hollywood is notorious for white-washing their casts and rewriting historical films to display the kind of message they prefer, and while it is important to remember that the film is fictional, Hidden Figures definitely shines some light on real American history and brings interest to its great complexity. I can’t say the movie is accurate to the book all the way down to the dialogue, but I don’t think any film adaptation ever will be. The core messages and plot line, however, do correlate with the book’s and make for a spectacular experience.

With all that said, if you haven’t watched the movie, I hope you will now (and check out the book, too). I will forever recommend it to anyone in need of a good film to watch.



A List of “Book Firsts”

By: Fiona Schneider

A lot of people have a single book they can name that made them a “reader.” I can’t say I am one of those people since I have been reading for as long as I can remember, and according to my parents even longer than that. However, I do have a somewhat list of “book firsts” I can share that chronicles my reading history and development.

I was never much for children’s literature, my mother claims I jumped straight from picture books to chapter books once I could read like a baby bird learning to fly. However, I did have a fond love for Dr. Seuss (much to my mother’s chagrin because she does NOT have a fond love for the Doc). The first book I picked up by Dr. Seuss was The Lorax, and I kind of stumbled into reading any book I could find by him thereafter. I loved the lyricism and flow of the words, and the Doctor is probably to be blamed for why I have fun writing poetry for myself in my spare time.

The next “book first” is actually about two books my father read to me when I was five before bed at the same time, switching back and forth depending on my choice each night. And these are the first books I read that tackled more depressing topics, like injuries, death, and recovery. These were Runt by Marion Dane Bauer and My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara. Runt is about a young wolf pup who is the pack, well, runt. It follows his life as he grows up and tries to prove himself beyond his small size to his father, King, in comparison to his other four siblings. My Friend Flicka is much different from the several show and movie adaptations, with the original main character being a young boy who sees Flicka, an uncontrollable yearling, at a round up and knows she is the horse he has been looking for. The story is a bit more dark than the later adaptations, and goes into a lot of the underbelly of the equine world. And if you haven’t noticed yet, I am a bit of an animal lover so I almost solely read books that revolved around animals and reality until my next and last “book first.”

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. This is the first fantasy novel I ever read when I was about nine, and I haven’t turned away from the genre since. I already wrote about this novel in a previous blog post to the main character, Meggie, but I left out details on the storyline itself. This book follows the adventures of Meggie Folchart, who learns she is a silvertongue, someone who can read words and make whatever is written a reality. She can read herself into books, as well as read characters out of books. She uses this ability to try and rescue her father who has been kidnapped and she thinks has been transported to the world inside the book Inkheart.

Now that I’ve told you a little about my own reading journey, I challenge you to try and think of some of your own “book firsts.” This reflection may make you laugh as you realize some things about yourself and just how much one book may have changed your life.

On This Day in History: The Russian Revolution

By: Martha Pointer

61ch+RBRC1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_One hundred years ago yesterday, the Russian Revolution ended with the success of Bolshevik Party leader, Vladimir Lenin’s, nearly bloodless coup d’état against the Russian Duma’s provisional government. The Bolsheviks and their allies occupied government buildings and other strategic locations in Petrograd, and soon formed a new government with Lenin as its head. Lenin became the dictator of the world’s first communist state (though soon after, a civil war broke out that would last nearly six years until 1923, when Lenin’s Red Army claimed victory and established the Soviet Union).

The Russian Revolution was a critical event in the twentieth century because it led to the birth of state-sponsored communism, which in turn had an impact on the subsequent world war and the Cold War that dominated the latter half of the century. In honor of this historic event, I’ve pulled some information from Jessica E. Piper’s The Story of the Russian Revolution 100 Years Later (with my own tidbits added in––I am a history major, after all) to help familiarize anyone interested.


The Government

The system of government that brought Nicholas into power was already outdated when the new tsar was crowned. The Russian empire was a hereditary monarchy, meaning that power was passed from one member of the royal family to the next. Additionally, the Russian tsar was an autocrat, meaning he had absolute power. While most European countries had a parliament or a representative body, Nicholas got to make all of the decisions himself. Although Nicholas was generally regarded as intelligent and well-educated, he wasn’t particularly interested in politics.

The Citizens

Tsar Nicholas II and his family spent most of their time in the royal palace in St. Petersburg, a port city along the Baltic Sea. But most Russian citizens were not royalty like Nicholas. In fact, most people didn’t even live in cities. In the early 1900s, 80 percent of Russians were peasants, living and working on small farms. For Russian peasants, the cycle of hunger and poverty seemed like it would never end.


Bloody Sunday

Outrage over the events of Bloody Sunday (when the military massacred protestors in St. Petersburg) soon turned into a sense of rebellion that spread far beyond St. Petersburg. Students at Moscow University burned a picture of the tsar. In the countryside, peasants began organizing strikes to force their landowners to increase wages. When that summer brought a bad harvest, some peasants attacked landowners’ estates, seizing property and setting fire to the manors. Most of the peasant violence occurred in Russia’s central agricultural zone, where poverty was the worst. The government wasn’t going to stand for peasant rebellion. Between January and October of 1905, the tsar’s administration authorized over 2,700 uses of military troops against peasant uprisings.

The October Manifesto

On October 17, Nicholas released the Manifesto on the Improvement of the State Order, more commonly known as the October Manifesto, which was a victory for protestors. It granted fundamental civil freedoms, including freedom of speech and assembly. And it established the Duma, a democratically elected body whose approval would be required for new laws.


Russia supported Serbia in World War I and thus was in opposition to Germany and Austria-Hungary. However, they were militarily unprepared and public opinion of the war declined quickly. The war seriously disrupted nearly all aspects of Russia’s economy. High casualty numbers led Russia to draft more soldiers into the army. Many of these soldiers had previously been peasant farmers; after they left, their farms went untended, hurting production. As the war continued, Russia not only lost workers, but also lost valuable farmland due to German advances. Nicholas assumed the position of military commander thinking that he could turn around Russia’s string of defeats. However, he was not particularly equipped for the position: he lacked military experience himself, played favorites, and valued perceived loyalty of his generals over skill. Since Nicholas was in charge, Russian citizens could now blame him for the empire’s military losses.


Vladimir Lenin was born in 1870 under the name Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. A devout Marxist, he was arrested in 1895 due to his political activities and was sentenced to exile in Siberia. Following his release in 1900, he traveled around Europe, meeting with various Marxist leaders, and he did a bit of writing. Lenin and his Bolshevik supporters lead the strikes, protests, and ultimately, the revolution of 1917. In March of that year, the Roman’s abdicated the throne. Over 300 years of Romanov rule in Russia had come to an end.

It’s important to remember that the original Russian Revolution happened only in the capital city, not the whole country. The Bolsheviks, however, felt empowered by the growth of peasant rebellions in rural Russia, and they proceeded to take over the Duma and Winter Palace. This occurred in early November of 1917 and concluded the second part of the Russian Revolution. Although much still needed to be resolved after November 7 one hundred years ago, a critical shift in power had taken place and the growth of communism had begun.

Getting your perfect job

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_659571946Today is National Job Action Day, and if you’re still looking for the perfect job, don’t worry!

We all know that one of the scariest parts about getting a job can be the interview. It’s nerve-wracking not to know what questions will be asked of you. But don’t worry, we have some tips for you.

shutterstock_364784783Don’t chew gum

Sure, we all want fresh breath, but opt for brushing your teeth or having a mint. Chewing gum can leave a bad impression. According to a poll done by CareerBuilders, employers found that one of the most common mistakes that interviewees made was chewing gum, which was in the same list as answering a cellphone and appearing arrogant.

It’s a simple thing to avoid, and it’s one less thing to worry about when it comes to making a good impression.

shutterstock_558231109Be early

The general rule of thumb that has been passed along through generations is: If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, don’t bother showing up.

Show up to your interview five to 15 minutes early; if you have to wait, be patient. However, showing up early will show your employer that you’re capable of being on time.

shutterstock_572545375Use your best handwriting

If the application is a written one, focus on using your best handwriting. This is the first impression of all, and if you can leave a good one, you’re on the road to success.

Find the space between humility and arrogance

Employers are turned off by arrogance, but being too humble can also turn them off. If you’re too shy about your accomplishments, they won’t get a sense of how great of a catch you are. Respectfully talk about what you’re capable of without bragging.

Being arrogant: “Yeah, my dad owns a company, so I know how to do just about everything around here. He’s taken me to some pretty fancy places, so let’s just say I’ve been around the block.”

Being confident: “I have a lot of experience working with people; I like to pay special attention to their body language and their tone of voice to completely understand how they feel about a particular service.”

In the first example, the candidate is being arrogant by leaning on his dad to boost his ego as well as his “fancy” experiences. In the second example, the candidate is being confident by leaning on his own abilities.

51DRUNlQF2L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you are looking for some more tips of finding the perfect job and nailing the interview, check out our book, The Young Adult’s Survival Guide to Interviews: Finding the Job and Nailing the Interview.

Treat Your Cat

shutterstock_381391396For those who do not know, October 29 was National Cat Day and November 1 was Cook for Your Pet day. Although these are not necessarily commonly celebrated days, and it is kind of a requirement to feed your cat every day, it isn’t too late to treat your feline friend with a nice meal anyways.

Purr-fect Recipes for a Healthy Cat: 101 Natural Cat Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Cat Healthy and Happy by Lisa Shiroff gives a guide to understanding a cat’s diet as well as a comprehensive recipes list to choose from, including the one below:

Poached salmonScreen Shot 2017-11-03 at 9.27.08 AM


  • 6 pounds whole salmon
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon eggshells
  • 1,000 mg taurine


  1. If you do not have a fish poacher, use a roasting pan with a lid and a rack that will hold the fish.
  2. Combine water and vegetables in pan.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Lay fish on rack and add more water if needed to cover.
  5. Replace lid and simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until meat is no longer deep pink around the backbone.
  6. Remove pan from heat, but let fish remain in broth up to 45 minutes.
  7. Remove fish and vegetables; finely dice so that your cat can comfortably eat it.

Now go make your cat happy! They were probably begging you for food anyways.

Tips on running a meeting

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_300720026The idea of running a meeting can be an intimidating task, but it doesn’t have to be!

A key feature to any meeting is the agenda. The more prepared you feel in executing the agenda, the better you will feel, and the better the meeting will go.

Another key feature of the meeting is designating everyone’s role for the meeting

Janet M. Nast, an IT trainer, has some tips on creating an effective agenda and specifying roles for the meeting.

An effective agenda should include the following information:

  • A list of topics (agenda items)
  • The name of the person to lead the discussion for each topic
  • Any materials or information that each person is expected to prepare and present
  • The amount of time allowed for each topic — this prevents a meeting from running late, and it allows an appropriate amount of time for each topic to be discussed
  • The expected outcome of each discussion — stating an expected outcome of any discussion helps people to stay focused on a common goal and to not get side tracked or talk for the sake of talking


Specify these three roles for every meeting:

  1. The facilitator: This is the person who begins each meeting by reviewing the agenda and asking if there are any other topics that need to be discussed (if time permits).

He or she will then introduce each topic, the time allowed for each topic, the expected outcome, and then share any pertinent information that will get the discussion moving.

This is also the same person who keeps the discussion on topic. We’ve all been in meetings where someone makes a comment about a subject and it triggers a whole other side discussion between one or two people. This can very disruptive, and it’s a waste of everyone else’s time. The facilitator will be the one to stop the meeting and ask if this is another topic that needs to be added to the next meeting’s agenda, or possibly critical enough to be discussed here and now. In that case, he will decide if there is time to do so by rescheduling one of the other agenda items into the next meeting.


  1. Time keeper: This person keeps things moving. He or she refers to a printed out copy of the agenda to watch the clock and then lets everyone know when the group is running out of time for said topic. The time keeper will work very closely with the facilitator in this role. He or she might need to say, “We have one minute left for this topic. Would you like to continue this discussion, which might not leave us room for the last item on the agenda, or table it for the next meeting?” (I’ve seen some time keepers set alarms on their smart phones.)


  1. Note taker

    : This person not only takes general notes on each topic discussion, but he or she keeps track of action items that come up, whom they are assigned to, and the expected completion dates. At the end of the meeting, these notes should be typed up and emailed to each meeting participant. That way, everyone knows what is expected of him or her as a result of the meeting.


51MvirQpNkL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_These tips are just the foundation in holding a great meeting! If you are looking for more tips on how to run meetings, check out our book, The Young Adult’s Guide to Robert’s Rules of Order: How to Run Meetings for Your Club or Organization.


Last Minute Book Costumes

By: Fiona Schneider

Halloween is just around the corner, and for us bookish people, it often means a time of choosing which character we want to bring to life in costume. I have only ever dressed up as Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series, but there are plenty of other characters on my list I hope to dress up as one day and go trick-or-treating. Instead of boring you with a record of all my favorite characters, though, I decided to compile a list of quick, last-minute costumes anyone can put together.

#1 Arthur from Arthurshutterstock_712762591 (1)

While you may not have read the books or watched the show, Arthur is a super easy book character to put together at the last minute. All you need is some blue jeans, a white t-shirt, yellow sweater, red shoes, and some fake glasses to pull the whole look together. As an added bonus, memorize the library card song and bring your personal library card along to break into song at random times of the night when things are getting slow.

#2 Belle from Beauty and the Beast

Most people don’t have a magical yellow gown in their closet, but Belle’s village clothes are an easy fix. Just toss together a light blue dress with some black heels and some type of white cloth you can tie around your waist. Pull your hair back in a French braid, and there you go! I don’t advise acting like you can talk to the rats under your neighbor’s house, though.

#3 Nancy Drew from Nancy Drew

Everyone at some point in their life has wanted to be a detective, and Nancy Drew was the perfect example of what we all wished our lives were like. I mean come on, smarts to match the pros as a mere middle schooler and all the local boys swooning over you? Can’t say it’d be a hard knock life. To match the young sleuth, pair a plaid skirt with a plain top (yellow was her favorite for some strange reason) and tie a knit sweater around your shoulders. Top off the look with a magnifying glass and some flats.

 #4 Waldo from Where’s Waldo

There is something quite nostalgic about Waldo, whether it’s the amount of relatability tied to the character or simply his universal imprint on our memory, this is a costume sure to get good reactions. Scrounge up a red and white knit sweater and matching bobble hat with some blue jeans. Tack on some black-rim glasses, and you have a pretty convincing Waldo. Just try not to disappear from the party, that kind of defeats the point of going.

shutterstock_37496926 (1)#5 The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia

Now is time to find every shred of white clothing you have in your closet, including that feather boa you at first bought unironically in middle school thinking they’d become an actual fashion statement (thanks Raven Baxter for telling me LIES), and put it on. All at once. And then paste on some white makeup. The more like a ghost you look, the better. Just try to avoid ice and children for the rest of the night while in costume, no telling what could happen.



I hope this range of ideas helped you in some way, if only to trigger your own costume idea. Maybe it would help to raid your mother/father/sibling/friend’s closet who you know wears weird clothes? But above all, have a happy halloween!


The Spookiest Book I’ve Ever Read

By: Kylie Widseth

Now, if you’ve read this book, I’m sure you will agree with me, and if you haven’t, just trust me. I don’t get to read a lot of thrillers even though I really love them, but Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was one of the best “spooky” books I’ve ever read. I don’t read many horror novels, so I picked a thriller to find under my definition of “spooky.”

41cSJI7PfHL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_To give a quick synopsis of it for the people who haven’t read it (yet), Gone Girl follows a married couple named Nick and Amy Dunne. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. Suddenly it seems as though Amy might be dead, but who killed her? Was it Nick or someone else?

If you’re like me, the second you start reading a mystery book, you try to solve the mystery before the author lets on the ending, and to piece together the puzzle before the main character can. Every chapter I had a different idea of who the killer was, and I had 100 percent convinced myself each time that I finally had it right.

I was on the edge of my seat every single chapter. It was a book for me that was so hard to put down, and I found myself either reading it or listening to the audiobook every spare second I had. Finally toward the end, I just ended up binge reading the last 150 pages or so in one sitting.

For those of you who have read it, the book is crazy isn’t it? There are so many twists and turns. One of my friends actually hadn’t had a chance to read the book, and she wanted me to fill her in on everything that happened. It was fun to be able to retell the story to her and watch her mouth drop and have her guess what was going to happen as the story progressed. Retelling the story made me realize how crazy it really was, and it made me realize all the clues I should have picked up on when I was reading it. I liked to see if someone else would pick up on the clues I missed.

MV5BYjgwY2E1N2QtNDJkMi00YzE4LThiYTItYWI5YmE4NWMzMGFhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjU3OTA4NzQ@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_This book is not only the spookiest books I’ve ever read, but also probably one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I still haven’t had a chance to watch the movie yet even though I really want to, but maybe this Halloween season I’ll find myself watching it.

What’s the spookiest book you’ve ever read?

Surviving Mother Nature 101

By: Fiona Schneider

Everyone loves a good romp in the woods, or a weekend out with friends or family to camp under the stars. Being stranded due a natural disaster, empty gas tank or getting lost on a hike, however, is not generally on someone’s weekly to-do list. The thought of being “wilderness prepared” might not even cross your mind due to today’s technology. But cell phone signal only goes so far, and not everyone just happens to stash several days worth of survival supplies in their car trunk, so the ability to “live off the land” per se, can be helpful.

In A Complete Guide to Surviving in the Wilderness: Everything You Need To Know To Stay Alive and Get Rescued by Terri Paajanen, is a plethora of survival tips that can get you through any situation. Perhaps you are a wilderness enthusiast who wants to go off the radar for a few days, or even weeks, and you run into an impromptu emergency situation, such as lack of supplies or injury. Or you are at home and experience an extreme natural disaster, such as a hurricane. Regardless of the dire situation, this book can help. This resource covers everything from how to find shelter, to securing and rationing supplies, as well as how to deal with a series of different injuries and illnesses.

In an emergency survival situation, though, the best advice from the survival skill equipped Shannon Morrigan is to, “Keep your head.” Staying calm and thinking a situation through could be the difference in your survival. If you are in a panic, you may rush your actions and not realize small details. For example, if you get lost on a hike and run around in a delirious state, you may not recognize familiar landmarks or hear running water when you get near it.

If you are planning to go on a camping weekend get away, make sure to tell those around you where you plan to stay, and for how long. This will decrease your rescue time when others start to question why you haven’t returned when you said you would. Also remember to bring the proper supplies. Don’t focus on luxury items, or foods that will spoil if not eaten in a few days (and especially not items that need refrigeration). A first aid kit and nonperishable foods, or simply foods with a long shelf life such as trail mix, are priorities. If you’re not the most fit person, don’t be overambitious and stuff a 70 pound pack to carry around. Stick to the essentials. A camping trip isn’t a fashion show, and if you go by yourself, nobody is going to be around to even tell if you wore an outfit more than one day in a row anyways, so skip the extra clothes for more important things, like a flashlight or pocket multi-tool.

survivethewildernessOther small pieces of advice include planning how and when your supplies, namely food and water, will be used. Also consider learning how to tie various knots and snares before your trip. This will help with stowing away supplies to keep them out of the reach of foraging animals while you sleep, or help to catch food should you be stranded for a lengthening amount of time. Remember a person can survive longer without food than water, so once you realize you are lost, finding water is the first priority. Then comes shelter, and then food since water often doubles as a source of food if fish happen to populate the body of water you discover.

Nobody particularly wants to be stuck in the wilderness, but should this occur, it is good to be informed about what actions you can take to best survive and await rescue.


Book Signing Experience: John Green

By: Kylie Widseth

Image-1It’s quite remarkable to me that, yet again, I’ve been in the presence of one of my favorite authors, but somehow it keeps happening.

I had the amazing privilege to attend the book tour of the one, the only, John Green for his latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down. (Please don’t ask me if I’ve read it yet. I have a very busy life, and I want to give it the adequate time that it deserves.) I can still hardly believe that I can say I have been in the same room as not only one of my favorite storytellers, but also one of my all-around favorite people.

IMG_0823Oh yeah, his brother, Hank Green was there too, and that was quite a treat. The pure bond between those two is really fun to witness. At one point, he even came out in a turtle costume, but he also played some music.

The event was held at Hank’s high school, Winter Park High School, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that the venue itself added to the experience of the event. It was obviously very nostalgic for Hank to visit a place that he hadn’t been in for 20 years.


I also got interviewed before the event by the high school broadcasters there because I was guilty wearing an “Okay? Okay.” shirt. I was quite literally wearing my allegiances on my sleeves. But hey, when else can you fully appreciate this novel than at an event. I’m also still knocking myself because right off-the-bat they asked me how John Green has impacted my life. Phew. That’s quite a loaded question and one, to be honest, that I have never fully processed, believe it or not. I know he’s impacted me in an incredible amount of ways, but I’ve never thought about it outright, and I also don’t think I could ever adequately explain it even if I tried. But, on a side note, I’m also pretty mad that I didn’t mention that I named my dog Hazel after Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in Our Stars. It’s also quite ironic that she embodies this character in so many ways. Most specifically, she is incredibly sassy. In my defense, they didn’t even prepare me for this type of question, they just fired away with probably the hardest question they could have asked.

It’s amazing to me just how successful Hank and John both are from their podcast, to their YouTube channel, to their Crash Course videos, Hank’s music, John’s writing, and the list could go on and on. I want to be even half as successful as they are, and I will be satisfied with my life.

IMG_0813I was thinking during the show about how nice it was to be laughing about things John was saying instead of crying like his books are known to do. But then he goes and does some pretty emotional things and says some things to make me emotional. (I don’t want to fully go into detail because it’s an a) kind of had to be there thing and b) I don’t want to ruin the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.) But just the idea that he can have me laughing one minute to crying the next just speaks volumes about his way with words, and the way he crafts what he says.

John_Green_Turtles_All_The_Way_Down_Book_CoverI could go on for ages about the show, but all around, I was incredibly pleased with the event, and I’m so glad I was finally able to say that I’ve seen Hank and John. It’s also still incredibly weird for me to process that John Green finally has a new book out.

Now, excuse me, while I go read Turtles All the Way Down.