Watership Down by Richard Adams (spoilers)

So July’s book for our family book club was Watership Down by Richard Adams. Now I’ll be honest I have wanted to read this book for a long time, which is how it ended up on our booklist for the year. However, if it hadn’t been for the book club I probably wouldn’t have ended up finishing the book. It was not by any means a bad book. I just have read a lot of political theory and war books. So initially I gave it a pretty average rating of 3 stars.

Now this was by now means a bad book. It was in fact a really excellently constructed traditional adventure story. It’s got a band of heroes hoping and searching for a new and idealistic future. In traditional fantasy sense the band of adventures are all extraordinary, except for our main hero. Like many who come before him Hazel’s main skill seems to be identifying the talented ones who have gone unnoticed or underutilized.  He is constantly kind and caring and but not Fiver and Bigwig are the actual saviors of the warren.

It was also a traditional fantasy in that it uses a fantstical veil (of rabbits) to discuss political. In this both the feminist struggle of the time and 4 different systems of government (bureaucracy, puppet (colonialism), military dictatorship, and a commune). Because it is through the guise of rabbits and rabbit lore it is all easily digestible. I do get that is a great introduction to political theory without having to talk about the actual theories. Now I think the overall quality of rabbitness does help in this messaging. They are cute, timid, quick decision makers and have real palpable concerns that they communicate well. There is also no romantic or sexual attractions, like 99% of all animals rabbits only have sexual relations for procreation not pleasure. There for Hyzenthlay and Lapine’s struggle was given real consideration for it’s merits and their intelligence and not just in becoming a love interest.

Now typically in books I really like epitaphs at the beginnings of chapers, sections, books. I think they add to the story and give more insight to the what is coming next or set the mood or give general insight to the world. In Watership Down however, it was one of the reasons I thought about DNFing. The quotes are all from notable thinkers about life, community, fairness, etc. and they were all almost exactly what the chapter was about or what Hazel and co. would learn. I felt that I could read the epitaphs and not the book. I understand that is was trying to apply and make these lessons understandable, but it felt more like hey this comes from a really smart places and not… this is life and how all living things can come together and be better.

I like the book. I think it is remarkably well written. But I think if you have read a lot in genre it may be harder to get through.

P.S. my favorite rabbit was Blackberry. He was soooo cute! and quite a scene stealer. Who was your favorite.

Monthly Recommendations: Witch-y Reads

This month for the Goodreads group we are recommending books that are… witchy. Now especially in books it’s hard to define what makes a book witchy it could be anything from Harry Potter to the Crucible.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft – I was super lucky to get to pick up this new anthology from my library. It was about witchcraft but focused much more on feminism, independence, forging ones own path in all variations of witchery. My favorite of these stories: The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma, Divine are the Stars by Zoraida Cordova, and Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May.

toil and trouble

The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard – This is a fantasy series but the magic is witchy enough for me to justify putting one of my favorite series on this list. The magic is derived from 6 natural wells of magic and have nature as their base. All those with powers are required to have prominent witchmarks. It’s a story of female friendship saving the world and if that doesn’t sound witchy fight me.

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The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani  – Though both Agatha and Sophie have magical powers. Hester, Anadil, and Dot are probably one of the best covens of all time is in this middle grade trilogy. Their fantastical prowess is a perfect fit for the school of evil. Not to mention this is just one of my favorite series of all time.

the school for good and evil

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – This more a type reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials set in 17th century New England. Kit doesn’t feel like she fits in until she meets the town witch…

witch of blackbird pond

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull – This is an occult  magical realism novel that follows a witch prophecy as two babies are born. It’s beautiful and spooky the witch culture and coven is exactly what one wants this time of year. Highly recommend for witch fans of Laini Taylor.

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Poor Man’s Carbonara

So one of my goals for this year was to get better at cooking a variety of food. One of the meals I have actually have made several times is Pasta Carbonara. However traditional carbonara is made with you know nice ingredients, nice Parmesan, shallots, etc. So I have learned to make a cheap carbonara that for around $5. These proportions should serve about 4 with a possibility for left overs. I really like it because it is so protein dense but still filling and tasty.

Ingredients:

  • Box of Pasta ($1)
  • 4 eggs ($0.32)
  • Parmesean-Romano Shakey cheese ($2.39)
  • 3 hot dogs (appx. $1)
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt
  • Lemon Juice (optional)

Steps

  1. Boil water and cook the pasta
  2. Saute half a diced onion and three diced hot dogs til both are golden brown
  3.  In a separate bowl combine 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks, one cup of the Parmesan-Romano, salt, and lots of pepper
  4. When pasta has been strained add back to pot with hot dogs and onion. Then slowly add egg mixture stir constantly. The heat of the pasta and meat will cook the egg into a sauce.
  5. Top with pepper and more cheese if you so wish and cut with lemon juice.

 

Monthly Recommendations: Underrated Reads

Every month a Goodreads group gives a category to recommend books from, August’s theme is Underrated Reads. I am really excited about this because I really need to talk with other people about some books that it feels like no one else has read and I want to read more, everything I haven’t heard of.

Catwings (series) by Ursula K. Le Guin – This is my favorite children’s series of almost all time. It’s so cute and it’s about stray cats with wings. It’s very fun and all about found family. Also if you have small children it’s a great way to indoctrinate them to the master of Ursula K. Le Guin

Diadem: Worlds of Magic by John Peel- This is a 12 book epic fantasy series. It is so fun and each book takes place on a different world. This is more middle grade but is so fun and has one of my favorite magic systems that works through creatures and crystals. I honestly feel like it’s such a good baseline for fantasy characters, creatures, and world. But I think about it like at least twice a day so more people need to read it.

Susan Dennard (all of her books) – The Something Strange and Deadly trilogy is criminally underrated. Not only is the main magic necromancy but we follow a problematic main character who has to get over her own prejudices. This takes place all over the world and has just the angst-filled romance. I still believe that her Witchlands series will gain popularity as people realize her genius. It has a great elemental magic system, even the healers are beholden to their element in healing. There is so much political intrigue and the most three-dimensional characters I’ve ever read in YA.

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irene Brignull – Honestly I just read this book and made me realize how much I wanted to do this theme this month. It was just the creepiest most beautiful written witch novel. It was so up my alley and I had never heard of it. It is about a witch and a human switched as they are being born to fulfill a prophecy for someone. It’s cruel and dark and beautiful and I really need to talk to someone about it.

Frontier Magic by Patricia C. Wrede – This alternative history trilogy is fantastic. It follows the United States as it expands west, except you know magic is real and there are great mythical creatures. There are so many magic systems that go with different culture and doesn’t overlook the civil war or the racial discourse of the time. In this the main character is from a family that follows a numerological magic system as the Thirteenth Child in her family she is curse and must overcome her fear of herself. SOO GOOD!

Sun Wolf and Starhawk (series) by Barbara Hambly – It is a great adult fantasy series that follows mercenaries (always the best). There is very cool and cult-like magic. Probably some of the best characters that respect you know other people and women. It does follow the trope of a chosen one but Sun Wolf makes decisions that make sense and Starhawk is a badass warrior who never relinquishes her femininity .

Monthly Recommendations: Mental Illness

This month’s topic for Monthly Recommendations, a Goodreads group, is Mental Illness Rep. A big problem today is the stigma against mental illness and those who suffer from it. I am only choosing to include fictional books on this list although there are some excellent non-fiction and reference books on the subject.

The most current that I’ve read and probably one of the most popular is Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. The main character in this has OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which John Green also has. It’s really fun mystery but the anxiety representation is really well done. It also deals really well with grief.

Wintergirls by Laurie Anderson Hale is also one of the most reference but for a reason. CW: anorexia, bulimia, self-harm. It was the one of the first books I read that shows eating disorders as a form of self-harm and didn’t pull punches in the consequence that follow.

Another classic is Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. It is an diary by a real person from the 80s I believe that chronicles a teen girl’s spiral into addiction. Addiction is a serious public health problem as well as mental health. It is very gritty but it is a true story and a fast read as it is journal entries. It is a CW: rape, self-harm.

Something that needs to be addressed in the book community is mental health in fantasy books. Two books that start to address it are A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling. Both main characters Feyre and Harry, respectively, suffer from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They relive their trauma, through dreams and panic attacks, and experience increase in aggressive and anxious behaviors after these experiences.

My top recommendations for general mental health books are She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. She’s Come Undone follows the story of a young women’s life from her early life to her late 30s. CW: rape, binge eating, sexual abuse. A large portion of this story takes place in a mental hospital and emphasizes the important of therapy, medication, and the myriad of ways to cope. Impulse takes place in a mental hospital following three characters that have recently tried to commit suicide. CW: self-harm, sexual abuse.

If you are struggling with any of these issues, there is always help.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800)273-8255

National Alliance on Mental Illness Crisis Text Line: Text NAMI to 741-741

Monthly Recommendations: Mixed Media/Graphic Novels

Monthly recommendations is a Goodreads group that gives different recommendations for books in new categories every month. This month’s theme is graphic novels or mixed-media, really anything through comic books. I personally haven’t read that many graphic novels/comic books but the ones I have read I really love.

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Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley- So this is a children’s series but it’s soooo good. It was actually my little sister’s and I used to steal it from her room. It’s about a girl who has to move to a small town after her parent’s divorce and she has to learn how to fit in with her new friends who are pretend superheros at war with the neighborhood ninjas.

Betty and Veronica by Archie Comics –  I loved Betty and Veronica and they have their own comic series where they do much better than trying to date Archie. It’s just really funny and sweet.

elfquestElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini- This is one of the favorite series. It’s about elves that are bonded with wolves and then humans burn down their forest and have to leave and find a new home.

No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels published by Sparknotes – So this is I think the easiest way to consume a Shakespeare Play. You get to take your time with the language but it also has the visual aspect that is like you are reading a play on stage.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – I wished this was a series but it is a really beautiful, cute, and sad story about what makes some one a hero or a villain.

Saga by Brian K Vaughn – Everyone kind of already knows this series but it’s very good and just because it’s hyped you should still read it. It is the story of a pair of galactic lovers who are on opposite sides of the war and told from the POV of the pair’s child.

 

saga

Monthly Recommendations: Best First in Series

Happy New Year and beginning on another year of monthly recommendations. Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group that picks a topic every month for lovely book nerds such as myself. This month we will be talking about ways to start of the new year right with brand new book series. As a disclaimer I am not including Harry Potter because whether or not you chose to continue the series I expect you to have read at least that one.

Children and Middle Grade 

Book of Names by John Peel (Diadem: Worlds of Magic) – My favorite series that no one has read. This first book starts off with three outcasts, Helaine, Score, and Pixel,  who come from different worlds, literally,  are brought together on the Inner Rim to be taught the art of magic.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) – A princess who doesn’t particularly like being proper or the idea of being married off runs away to become a dragon’s princess. There are wizards with magic sucking staffs, witches with crepe pans, stone princes, etc. Everything one could want in a fairy tale adjacent fantasy.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Shadow Children) – In a dystopia where only two children are allowed per family, Luke is the third. A political thriller series that is written for a younger age group and one of my favorites. It’s also the first series I read where there were consequences for the main characters. Warning: tears happen. 

Young Adult

Legend by Marie Lu (Legend Trilogy) – Most people have read this but everyone who I have recommended it to has loved so if you haven’t yet read it. This dystopian trilogy follows a prodigy of the Republic, a police state, and a young unparalleled criminal mastermind. Also there is a plague. It is amazing and slightly scary and sad and perfect. Go!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Fire and Thorns) – Oh no, another fantasy series about a chosen one, no trust me it’s actually unlike anything I have ever read. In this Latin America inspired fantasy world the series delves deep into political intrigue and religion. Elisa is one of my favorite protagonists of all time and the story goes nowhere a reader expects it to.

Adult

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon (The Deeds of Paksinarrion) – Let’s see if I can mention Paks at least once a recommendations post until someone complains. This first book see Paks join the Duke’s recruits and join the army. It is an easy introduction to a fantasy world that is full of fighting and destruction. It’s great fantasy for those who don’t like magic because while this occurs in a fantasy world Paks herself only interacts with magic users, healers, gods, but is not one herself.

Another Fine Myth by Robert Lynn Asprin (Myth Adventures) – This long and epic fantasy series starts off in the normal way Skeeve, a magician’s apprentice, watches his master killed by an assassin shortly after summoning a demon, Ahaz. Ahaz and Skeeve must then work together. It amazing and hilarious and has one of my favorite dragons. Gleep. 

Monthly Recommendations: Books I am thankful for

November (yes I know I am a little late)’s recommendation topic is books I am thankful for. There are lots of ways that one can be thankful for a book: made me the reader I am, connected to a happy memory, got you through a hard time, etc.

  • Harry Potter by JK Rowling: I think this is an obvious one for most people. It sparked my love of magic and obsessive love of Harry Potter. This is also the book my dad brought home when we adopted my baby brother.
  • The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare: So this is a series that came to me at the right point in time. I was going through such a hard time and it made me feel there was where people like me and who cared about me. I read this series with my friend who became my best friend.
  • She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb: Once again a book that showed me that you can be fine no matter what else is happening. This is also the book I was reading when a real professional author, of this book, told me to keep writing and that I had talent. So grateful for both.
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: This was a book that I read with my 2 best friends in high school and we made a hilarious book report with it (it was on a pumpkin). I really just had such a great time reading it and it made me much less afraid of classical literature.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: I read this book my freshman year of college and it just got me out of reading slump and my stress of school and it was such just a bright fun read.
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown: This is the first book series I read with my boyfriend and we still talk about it all the time and it’s so much at the root of our friendship.

Monthly Recommendations: Favorite Mysteries

For October the topic for the Goodreads group Monthly Recommendations is Favorite Mysteries. I personally don’t read a lot of mysteries it’s probably my least read genre besides non-fiction books. Here are books I have enjoyed that have mysteries or have a focus on something to solve that are good for those just getting into the genre

mysterious benedictlike me.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: It is such a fun mystery following gifted children that all work together to solve puzzles and infiltrate mysterious academies.

The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: Ahhh the horror and the mystery. I think this is a pretty obvious one but I really enjoyed trying to figure out the Baudelaire’s fate, Count Olaf, VFD, etc.

dick francisSmoke Screen by Dick Francis: Dick Francis is another pretty famous mystery writer. These books are really short fun and easy to get into. Bonus you don’t figure out the murderer on the first page they are introduced!

Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie is a must for any mystery but my favorite is Miss Marple, the unseemly old woman who is always in the right place at the right time. Definitely some of the funniest mysteries.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: I LOVED this book and mystery! Everyone inthe westing game an apartment building is teamed up to solve the will of an old millionaire to receive inheritance. Everyone has their own secrets it’s such a fun read.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: I know this isn’t the world’s greatest mystery but it’s great for beginners like me and has a really cool unreliable narrator and mostly unlikable characters that you can still root for.

The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell: Probably the most obvious and gruesome of the bunch. Probably best not to going in knowing too much but compelling and has multiple layers of mystery. body farm

 

Monthly Recommendations: Required Reading

This is a Goodread’s group that gives book recommendations based on a different topic every month. This month is centered around the books that you believe that everyone should read. This was really hard for me so I decided to split it up by age-range and we will see how this works.

Children:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster- I refer to this book frequently as though everyone had it… so everyone should. It’s wonderful and smart and made me feel less bad about liking school more than my classmates.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – I am pretty sure everyone has had to read this for school or has been read this by some teacher figure. However, everyone needs to learn that they always have something to give BUT don’t anyone all of themselves.

Middle-grade:

Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling- You know you have to read this. There shouldn’t be a lot of discussion.       You will like it I pinky swear.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – The traditional children running away from home. Claudia and Jamie don’t know why they just want to run away as all children should and they go to hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Young Adult:

Monster by Walter Dean Myers – Please read this. It’s the story of a young African-American man on trial in association for a crime he knew nothing about. As he studies film he writes his diary of the trial as a script. If you care about, race, or law, or film (everyone should care about all three) you need to read this.

The Harper Hall Trilogy by Anne McCaffery – This is one of my favorite series of all time . Dragons. Music. Found family. Being able to choose a home where you are safe and wanted. I think that everyone would enjoy at least some aspect of this series and I love it, so everyone should read it.

Adult:

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman ( I know it says Stetson here but she got divorced for reasons obvious once you read the story) – It is a short horror story that is an iconic feminist and mental health tale. That everyone must read at at least one point in their life.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot – The only non-fiction book I am recommending because it is the best. It is the true story of an English country veterinarian and his truly bizarre adventure. It’s so interesting to learn about the medicine and culture. Also everyone I know likes it.

All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren – This was required reading for me and became one of my favorite books of all time. The best written book most people will ever read. It follows Jack Burden who works for a corrupt southern governor in the 1930s. It is both profound and hilarious, someone being compared to a drunkards poodle hilarious.