The Most Beautiful Libraries Around the World

  • Biblioteca de Convento de Mafra: This library is located in Mafra, Portugal. It is filled with leather-bound books from the 14th to the 19th centuries. This library had once been a part of the Mafra National Palace and it’s exquisite structure still stands today because of the bats sleeping in the shelves to keep away any pests. You should see it if you are ever nearby!
  • National Library of China: This library is located in Beijing, China. Several shelves consist of archives dating to the Song Dynasty and even some made of tortoise shells and bones from the Qing Dynasty. In the year of 1909, this library had been granted by the Xuantong emperor as an ordinary library but after the Revolution of 1911, it was taken over by the Ministry of Education and eventually led to being the country’s national library. People of all different interests in books find this library absolutely astounding.
  • Abbey Library of St. Gall: This library is located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The paintings on the roof and the fashion of the book shelves leaves people breathless at first sight. This library is attached to the church of Abbey of St. Gall and has archives that date back to 820 CE. In the mid-18th century, the library had been redone in the Renaissance art style and architecture. A must-see that doesn’t allow any photography inside!
  • Starfield Library: This library is located in Seoul, South Korea. A unique characteristic of this library is that it is located in an underground mall! This library seems to be one of the most recent of beautiful libraries as it was built in 2017. Its two-story athenaeum shows the space as glowing and the plush sofas there are very relaxing.
  • Klementinum National Library: This library is located in Prague, Czech Republic. The original library of a Jesuit library became the “Baroque pearl of Prague” national library of the country. The adorn ceiling came from the artwork of Jan Hiebl and a portrait of Emperor Joseph II is placed at the head of the hallway with all of the works done throughout the centuries that had been in libraries that no longer exist anymore.

-Saanvi V.

Diverse Books by POC and LGBTQ Authors

As much as I love the representation presented in Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Lunar Chronicles, and Six of Crows, I have learned while reading these books that they are written by white, heterosexual women. There is nothing wrong with this and should be a common occurrence among white writers but sometimes, these authors tend to overshadow queer authors and authors of color. Their stories are less likely to be heard, though these stories relate to their personal struggles and identities. So here are some that I would like to recommend some books by authors in the POC and LGBTQ communities.

  1. Casey McQuiston: This author has been known for writing Red, White, and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, two stories with both LGBTQ and POC representation. In Red, White, and Royal Blue, the main character is biracial and bisexual while his love interest is gay. In One Last Stop, the main character is a lesbian as well as her Chinese American love interest. Casey McQuiston themself is bisexual and nonbinary, using all pronouns. They are publishing a book in 2022 called I kissed Shara Wheeler, another book you could check out!
  2. Adiba Jaigirdar: This author has written 2 books called The Henna Wars and Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. These books are sapphic and show representation in the Muslim, Afro-Brazilian, Bengali, and Korean community. The author herself is Bangladeshi and lives in Ireland. She identifies as queer. Go check her books out!
  3. Hafsah Faizal: This author is known for writing We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars. Hafsah Faizal grew up in a household where Islam was an important practice in their life. She is of Arabian and Sri Lankan descent. The books stated above portray Arabian terminology that is normal in Arabia. We love to see it!
  4. Angie Thomas: This author has written many books but the ones people mostly recognize her for is The Hate U Give and On the Come Up. These two books are about how racism hinders and traumatizes young black people and how they live in a society that is constantly against them. But, nonetheless, they fight against them with all of the strength they have. Angie Thomas is also one of six authors who wrote Blackout, a collection of love stories between black people during a power outage in their city. Definitely check it out!
  5. Tomi Adeyemi: This author has written the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy: Children of Blood and Bone, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, and another untitled book she is working on. These books are inspired West African elements with Yoruba mythology. Though it is a fantasy book, it show many ideologies in our world (like racism) discreetly.

If you would like to expand the types of authors you read, please check these ones out!

-Saanvi V.

Problematic Tropes in Books

TW: Mentions of Abuse

1. “I am not like other girls”: This trope is particularly targeted against women using harmful stereotypes. These girls could be portrayed as hating makeup or reading a lot or being awkward, which defines how women as a total acts in society. Such stereotypes are used to demean women and the activities they partake in.

2. Limited Diversity: This applies to both members in the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community. Authors only write these characters to earn some credit for being “open” and “inclusive.” Most of the time, these characters are used to further the main character’s plotline, have no character development at all, or are killed off. No matter where a story takes place, there will be more than one person of color and the LGBTQ community. People in these categories deserve representation too!

3. Enemies-to-Lovers gone wrong: This is a popular trope among book readers (such as myself) and could be enjoyable if done right. However, sometimes this trope uses abuse and doesn’t address it when the two enemies become lovers. This is a hard thing to do because if both of the people are good, how could they be enemies? Many people struggle with this and often defend the abusers against people who notice dangerous trends with these characters. Relationships should be portrayed as healthy, no matter what the trope is being used!

4. Love Triangle: It is common in this situation that stereotypes would be enforced in a harmful way. First of all, a woman is torn between choosing between two men. This choice becomes the only character development she obtains throughout the entire book, whether she chooses the right guy or not. Usually (not always) the girl chooses the guy who is more manipulative toward her because of the “intense” sexual tension between them (Relationships isn’t solely based around sexual tension but many books make it seem that way). And if it is 2 women desiring one man, they are often pitted against each other as competition, finding ways to demean each other and come out on top.

5. Love at First Sight: In no world could this be realistic. This attraction is caused by physical attraction which doesn’t say anything about someone’s personality. It states that love circulates around whether you find the person attractive and nothing about how they treat others around them. If young readers believe this as a real thing, many could potentially experience abusive relationships in the future. The “magic” that comes with the first glance of a potential love interest can’t make a relationship work out in the long run.

I might have said things that you disagree with (That’s okay. This is my viewpoint on these scenarios; you have every right to any opinion you have). And there must be more problematic book tropes that I didn’t mention above. If you have any you would like to share, comment them below!

-Saanvi V.

Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The story begins with an 18-year-old girl named Alessandra who wanted to be seen in the world. Being the younger sister, she is constantly overlooked by her father so she formulated a plan to gain power and thus receive the attention she wanted—by marrying and killing the Shadow King, taking his power all for herself. No one is allowed 5 feet within the king’s reach and the king has always been disinterested in the girls who have always tried to impress him but she didn’t let that stop her goal.

As the story continues, Alessandra finds that she isn’t the only one plotting to kill the king. Trying to save him from the threats on his life, it begins to get harder to convince herself she is protecting him purely because she wants to kill him herself when she becomes queen. And it becomes incredibly difficult to keep her objective clear when the king exposes his kindness to her.

When I started reading this book, I found it hard to put it down. The word dictation is astonishing, the friendships made are wonderful (strengthened very unexpectedly), and all of the personalities of the characters are powerful in their unique ways. The author weaves many villians in the story without overwhelming or confusing the plot. This standalone helped me out of a reading slump and I would like to recommend it to everyone.

-Saanvi V.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

In the vast city of Golvahar resides a princess named Soraya, forced to be hidden away from the public eye. Cursed, she was born with the ability to kill any living being with a mere touch. Her yearning to be a part of her family and society flourishes with the years she stayed concealed in the gardens, watching everyone’s lives from a far distance. But all changes when a demon creature (div) who holds the knowledge to break her curse is captured and being held in the palace dungeon. A beau who perceives her past the poison running through her veins vows to help her but to what extent will she go to get what she desires? And will the choices she makes conform her into the monster she always tried not to become?

This enthralling tale of self-discovery and will power kept me hooked from the very beginning. Melissa Bashardoust takes stories from Persian mythology and makes a fascinating queer fairytale with many elements from Sleeping Beauty. The secrets told in the most unexpected times compels the readers to think deeper into the true meaning of “monster” and what it takes to be a hero. Told in the perspective of Soraya herself, we see the loneliness she had been through firsthand, allowing us to relate to and perhaps find ourselves in her story.

-Saanvi V.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.