Happy Hobbit Day!

Happy Hobbit Day!

Hobbitses, rejoice! Today is Hobbit Day, which means that it’s the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Bilbo Baggins is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. His bravery, loyalty, keenness for adventure, quirkiness, and good-natured humor is admirable. He passed these traits, including his sense of adventure and heroism, to Frodo, his relation and heir. Both characters are worth celebrating!

Another event worth celebrating is that yesterday, September 21, was the 80th anniversary of “The Hobbit,” one of my favorite books of all time.

To celebrate both occasions, here are some of my favorite quotes from “The Hobbit” and Bilbo Baggins:


“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” -“
The Hobbit”

“Good morning,” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.
“What do you mean?” he said. Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. –“The Hobbit”

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not Today. Good morning! But please come to tea – any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!”
-Bilbo

“I will give you a name,” he said to it, “and I shall call you Sting.” -Bilbo

“Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!” -Bilbo

“If ever you are passing my way,” said Bilbo, “don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome at any time!” -Bilbo

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”  -Bilbo

“He [Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ . . .”
-Frodo, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

 

Did I miss any? What are some of your favorite hobbit quotes?

 

 

Happy fall! 10 spooky books to read this season

Happy fall! 10 spooky books to read this season

Fall is here! Fall is here! While the weather is still on the balmy side, fall is definitely upon us!

If you can’t tell by now, fall is my favorite season. I love the cool weather and fall fashion—lots of layers! I love walking outside and inhaling the fresh, crisp air. I love the breathtaking views with its foliage and picturesque images in a pumpkin patch or a nearby lake. I love all of the activities: apple picking, pumpkin picking, hiking, biking, going to fairs (like the Big E!), making fall crafts, and eating delicious fall desserts—like apple crisp!

Another great part of fall is what I call the “spooky season.” Is it just me, or do things look eerier and darker in the months of October and November? With the leaves on the ground and the skeleton-shaped trees, driving past any cemetery or old looking house can send a chill up your spine.

Despite being a big baby, I love being scared. I don’t know why, but I love spooky things: haunted houses, scary stories, and everything Halloween! Granted, while most of the movies I watch during Halloween season are Disney classics like “Hocus Pocus,” “Halloweentown,” “Frankenweenie,” “Corpse Bride,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” I definitely enjoy other classics like “Halloween,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and of course, “Young Frankenstein!”

Along with watching scary movies, I also love to read spooky, horror-filled stories! While the movies may scare me, reading thrilling tales in a book seems to kick it up a notch. Here are some spooky tales/books to read this fall!

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
A classic short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a perfect quick read to give you goose bumps and put you into the Halloween spooky spirit.

“Carrie” by Stephen King
A different kind of spooky tale, “Carrie” follows the story of Carrie White, a misfit girl who is bullied by her classmates. She discovers that she has telekinetic powers, which she uses to get revenge on those who torment her.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
I know, not exactly scary, but “Harry Potter” is a wonderful, mild series that contains all of the spooky components: witches, wizards, magic, trolls, and goblins. Dive into the magical world of “Harry Potter” this Halloween!

“The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe” by Edgar Allan Poe
From “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Black Cat”, to “The Fall of the House of Usher” to “The Masque of the Red Death”, Poe will have you spooked! His way of writing captivates you and keeps you on the edge of your seat from the first sentence.

“Coraline” by Neil Gaiman
I remember seeing the cover of this book at the Scholastic Fair and cowering in fear. It is now one of my favorite movies! Pick up this short book by an incredible author and follow the heroine Coraline in this thrilling and dark tale.

“Dracula” by Bram Stoker
Dive in to this novel that established the conventions of vampire fantasy! Count Dracula is indeed a terrifying character, and he will have you checking your closets before bedtime.

“IT” by Stephen King
Ah…”IT.” The terrifying Pennywise the Clown. I’m petrified of clowns, so, naturally, I’ve read King’s novel twice and watched the 1990 film a few times. No, reader, I will not be watching the new adaptation. Ever.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a chilling tale about a woman in postpartum who goes mad after being trapped in the attic of a Victorian house by her husband. This was a common practice that men executed in order to “confine” women with mental illness, which is a horror story in itself.

“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
“Frankenstein” is one of the first science fiction novels, and it is indeed one of my favorites! Learn how Frankenstein is not the name of the monster, and how he is a creepy, yet endearing creature.

“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
“By the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!” With apparitions, ghosts, and witches, “Macbeth,” where in the world of theater is believed to be cursed if uttered aloud, will have you spooked!

 

What horror/scary novels do you enjoy? Please share!

Happy National Read a Book Day!

Happy National Read a Book Day! Today is perfect weather for getting bundled up in your favorite blanket on the couch with a steaming mug of tea in one hand and a book in the other.

book heart

The fall semester has officially started, and I am excited to celebrate National Read a Book Day in my Jane Austen class talking about one of my favorite authors! In honor of such a fitting holiday, I thought that I would have a bit of fun and list my top five favorite books (which was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be!):

 

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott


“Little Women” is the kind of book where you laugh, cry, (happy and sad tears) and finish with a sigh wishing it would never end. Every time I read it, I am excited to watch Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy grow up together. Each sister grows up to be different from one another, and I find that each one possesses qualities that I see in myself: Meg’s values in family, Jo’s sense for adventure, travel, and writing, Beth’s quiet, introverted, kind nature, and Amy’s passion for art, quality of life, and helping others. It’s a wonderful book that exemplifies the importance of family, love, and being true to one’s self.

 

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“Pride and Prejudice” has been a favorite of mine for some time (I’m actually reading this book now for class)! Every time I read it, I learn to appreciate Austen as an author for shedding light on the domestic realm in the 18th century—something that male authors in that time could not do! I admire the characters, especially the hilarious Mr. Bennet, who I believe to be my spirit animal, and also admire Elizabeth Bennet for her strong-willed personality and overall character.

 

“The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien


“The Hobbit” continues to be one of those books that I never tire of reading. Tolkien introduced us to a fantasy world that we all can escape to—from the Shire and its beautiful rolling hills and relaxed, carefree lifestyle to the Misty Mountains and the forest of Mirkwood. While different from our real world, there are similar themes that I resonate with. With all of the darkness in the world, I cling to novels like “The Hobbit” that share strong messages, including this one: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

 

“The Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling

I love “Harry Potter” and the themes that J.K. Rowling expresses in her novels. From her messages revolving around mental illness and the strength that love and friendship hold, I find myself feeling true solace while reading the series. Although I have read the series multiple times, I always find myself enjoying “Prisoner of Azkaban” a little more than the others. At this point, Harry’s maturing, and the plot begins to shift, giving us more of a background on the Marauders and a front row seat to Harry’s emotions and the demons that haunt him. Not to mention, we meet Sirius Black for the first time (who is one of my favorite Harry Potter characters)!

 

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

There is so much magic in “A Christmas Carol!” Every December, I make an effort to reread this book, and I am captivated as I follow Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from encountering the three spirits to discovering the true meaning of Christmas. I have yet to read anything else by Dickens (and I desperately need to), but I always enjoy picking this one up and reading in front of the Christmas tree with a mug of hot chocolate! I love getting swept up the overwhelming nostalgia and getting into the holiday spirit!

 

What are you reading today on Read a Book Day? What are your favorite books? Share in the comments!

What I have learned about mental health and ‘Harry Potter’

Yesterday, July 31, was a magical day: the birthdate of J.K. Rowling, the author behind the Harry Potter series. Not to mention, it was also Harry’s birthday too. Reflecting on the birthdate of one of my favorite authors and the magical world that she created, I wanted to share a post that I have been writing for some time now, “What I have learned about mental health and Harry Potter“:

I remember the first time I read Harry Potter. I was in fourth grade, and my teacher assigned the class to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I remember my
10-year-old self being completely engrossed. I would always look forward to silent reading during the day so I can pull out my book and get swept away in the magical world that Rowling created (I also waited for the arrival of my Hogwarts letter when I turned 11, which I never received, but I digress).

Throughout the last 15 years, I’ve reread the series a number of times. I know the movies by heart. I love Harry Potter. I love the waves of sweet nostalgia I experience while reading the books and watching the films. I love the character development and the lessons that we learn as Harry, Ron, and Hermione face all of these near-death experiences and somehow manage to simultaneously keep up with their lessons and social lives. I don’t know how they do it —it’s like magic, or something.

Needless to say, I am a Harry Potter fanatic. For my literary-themed wedding, I made sure that there was some Harry Potter inspiration sprinkled in there. I have a Harry Potter shrine at home, where I display my hardcover books and collectibles.

IMG_5532.JPG

Every few years or so, I make an effort to reread the series, and I find that I continue to learn more about the plot line and relate to the characters in some way. My husband and I are currently listening to the audiobooks (Jim Dale is amazing!), and just wrapped up Order of the Phoenix. While I always notice something new or something I’ve forgotten about the plot, the last few times around, I noticed something much heavier about the series.

As a person who has a close connection with mental health, I began to realize that Harry Potter is filled with symbolism around mental health, specifically PTSD, anxiety, and depression. I noticed this because I experience these particular “disorders” myself. They are prevalent in Harry’s character, who experiences the brunt of bad things throughout the series as one of our heroes. This is a topic that I am looking forward to exploring as I continue to read more theory (lots of theory) and continue my graduate studies.

It is well known now that J.K. Rowling wrote The Philosopher’s Stone during a very rough time in her life; she was suffering from depression and facing dark times. It is during this dark time that she found her light in creating a world of her own, unbeknownst that one day millions of people would too find escape and solace in it.

It is in The Order of the Phoenix where I realized how much I resonated with Harry’s character. Harry, who has had his share in traumatic experiences in the past four years, is now feeling completely isolated. Despite having the support of his two best friends and other allies, Harry feels alone. He is angry, violent, and fragile; he cannot control his emotions. His mood swings are frequent, and while he wants to be around people, he also finds himself wanting to be alone. While reading this novel, I cannot help but see the signs of depression and post traumatic stress, two things that I combat on a daily basis.

If we take a step back and look at Harry’s life, he is continuously suffering from extreme loss. He grew up in a home where he was mistreated and then discovers that his parents were killed by a powerful sorcerer who tried to kill him too. Despite being happier than he’s ever been at Hogwarts, he continues to experience hardships. To name a few, he nearly escapes death four times, battling Lord Voldemort, dementors (which symbolize the ugliness of depression), witnesses the death of a friend, and is now being ridiculed and slandered by his schoolmates and the entire wizarding world for telling the truth. Professor Dumbledore, an ally and mentor, is no longer speaking to him. He is hurt, angry, and feels alone.

Harry cannot even control his own mind; it is constantly being overtaken by a dark and angry entity. Throughout most of the series, Lord Voldemort infiltrates Harry’s mind giving him access to his most dark and violent emotions, thoughts, and acts. This is beneficial to Harry, for he is able to follow Voldemort’s moves as he fights to destroy him, but it is also detrimental to his mental and physical health. Despite being asked to learn how to combat these infiltrations in his brain with occlumency, he has trouble finding the will to do so. Voldemort’s power of legilimency is equivalent to the power of depression and the thoughts that can take over your mind. Although unwanted, sometimes it is easier to succumb to it rather than fight it. Harry’s scar and its constant burning is a metaphor for the power that mental health issues can hold on a person. While Harry’s is visible, most mental health scars are hidden, but those who have them are reminded that they are always fighting an ongoing battle.

What I have learned from the Harry Potter series is that despite there being so much dark in the series, there is also light. Harry may have these demons trying to plague his mind, but he comes to the realization that he has something that is stronger than any force in the world: love. He also has true friendship and support, something that someone like Voldemort will never have. In the ministry, Voldemort tries to overcome Harry’s mind and fully possess him, but Harry fights back. Love and light always wins.

Although there is darkness, love is one of the key themes of the series, and gosh, does it overflow with it! There are characters who feel so deeply, who suffer from so much pain, but they fight through it. Dumbledore said it best to Harry after he lost Sirius:

“The pain is part of being human…the fact that you can feel pain like this is your biggest strength.”

Pain is strength. Accepting the pain is even more strength, and fighting through it can lead to healing, like Harry’s scar at the end of the series. If you think about it, what are the last words in The Deathly Hallows?

“All was well.”

 

Authors note: I noticed upon research after my post that this topic of ‘Harry Potter’ and mental health has been discussed by others before on Reddit and other forums. If anyone else out there has anything to add/discuss, please comment below or send me an email! I’d love to hear other theories or examples! Best, Kassondra