The trees are alive! || My favorite trees in fiction.

The Trees are Alive Illustration || Treebeard, Groot, Pickett, and Uprooted || Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

When it comes to my stories posts, I’ve decided reviews and recommendations are not enough. I also want to talk a little more in general about the overarching things that pull me in, whether that be themes, characters, genres, tropes, etc. Reading about specific books or shows is nice, but sometimes it’s easier to interact with a post if it touches on broader themes (and I’m all about interaction here).

To start off, today I wanted to highlight one of my favorite types of characters in fiction: tree people!

Now, I have this strange memory from when I was a teen where my mom and I went on a little road trip and stopped at this place where a guide would take you on a horse trail around the area. I’m pretty sure it was educational and insightful then, but there is only one specific part of it I remember: at one point during the tour the driver picked me out of the group and commented how I looked like a tree lover and might run off to go hug a tree at any moment. I think this incident was around my goth days so he may have just been ironic at the time, but there was a certain truth to what he said. While I do not run around talking to trees on a daily basis, I do find great comfort in their presence and walking in the woods surrounded by a bunch of trees is one of my favorite things.

Of course, the trees I love and experience daily never come to life – or not in the sense that they walk and talk! They grow and they creak and they shed leaves, but that’s about the most action I get to see.

In fiction though, they have a chance to do so much more. And I LOVE IT!

There’s just something about taking an everyday staple of real life – trees – and making them come alive that I can’t get enough of. It makes you look at those things differently, and makes the child in you believe that maybe when you’re not around the things you ignore on a day-to-day basis really do come to life. (We all need a little belief in magic, I believe. It helps you stay excited about the world.)

And I really like considering how they would act if alive: would they be as calm and peaceful as they tend to seem? Or would being alive unleash their wrath and destruction would be brought upon us all?

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite trees in fiction (which, for the most part, seem to fit the peaceful description – unless provoked):

Treebeard

When Trees Attack || Treebeard from Lord of the Rings || Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrativeThe Ents from the Lord of the Rings series, whether we’re talking about the films or the books, are one of the first fictional trees I fell in love with. There is just something so endearing about these old and slow beings. They may take forever to decide things, but I like that they don’t rush into things. (It’s a good lesson, I think.) Plus, when it comes down to it, they still kick ass. Ah, just typing this makes me want to re-watch the series.

Groot

When Trees Attack || Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy || Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrativeI’m going to be 100% honest here, I actually never quite understood the hype for Guardians of the Galaxy. It was enjoyable, sure, but it wasn’t the best thing ever for me (and I’m not rushing to see the sequel). That being said, I did fall hard for Groot thanks to this movie. Who knew a character that had such a limited vocabulary (“I am Groot”) could be so lovable? Especially when in his baby form. (Would it be cruel to say I’d be tempted to keep him in his baby form forever? I can’t help it!)

Pickett

When Trees Attack || Pickett from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them || Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrativeOkay, I’m not quite sure if this last one counts as a tree, per se, but I’m pretty sure it’s close enough. Pickett is a Bowtruckle from the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie and awww, this little guy is so cute. While those attachment issues Pickett has may need to be sorted some time, there’s no doubt in my mind I would carry him around with me everywhere I went too, if I were Newt. He comes in handy! (Though seriously, I wanted to punch Newt when that one scene happened where Pickett’s life seemed to be in great danger…)

Honorable Mentions

And, for some honorable mentions who I did not draw but love just the same:

  • The Walkers from Uprooted (see my review here) – One of the best things about this series is that the trees comes to life and they’re EVIL! They kidnap people and attack people and just all the things. It was refreshing reading a story with that kind of perspective around the trees when most seem so nice (though also sort of creepy)!
  • The Monster from A Monster Calls – I’m actually shocked that I almost forgot this one, but I think it’s fair enough because the monster isn’t necessarily a tree. It’s just the form he chose while talking to the MC. Still, he definitely deserves a mention, especially because Jim Kay’s art depicting him is so beautiful.
  • The Whomping Willow from the Harry Potter series – Okay, I actually see the Whomping Willow as more of like a Venus flytrap, something that moves based on reflex and not because it’s a sentient being, but hey, it’s still a cool tree. (Plus Weeping Willows are my favorite trees so their Whomping cousins deserve some love.)
  • The Giving Tree – If we want to be real about what fictional tree first won over my heart, it is The Giving Tree. I read the picture book as a kid and oh gosh, that tree. It’s been years since I’ve read it but just thinking about it breaks my heart all over again. If you haven’t read it, go to a library and see what I’m talking about. </3

Now it’s your turn! What do you think about living trees in fiction? Love them, hate them, indifferent towards them? Are there any I didn’t include in my list that you love, or any that I listed that you agree are the absolute best? Let me know in the comments below! And then go out later and hug a tree. They deserve some extra love. 😉

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These are the high school tv series I find bearable.

Calling these high school tv series “bearable” is actually probably doing them a disservice. Really, they’re on this list because I thoroughly enjoyed them at one point or another, and not just because someone forced me to choose my top three for a blog post. 

I mean, really, I don’t generally seek out high school series to watch on TV or Netflix. They’re like contemporary reads for me: they’re okay, just not my cup of tea. But out of the ones I have attempted to watch over the years, these are the few that I’ve made it from beginning to end. The best of the best from a person who has no real qualifications to determine such a thing.

Favorite High School TV Series: Glee || Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

Glee

I was in LOVE with this Glee while it was airing. Though it played on stereotypes and didn’t lack any amount of cheese, I appreciated it because in many ways that is how my experience of high school was: everyone stuck to their own groups (I was mostly in the “freaks/misfits” group) and the drama was just so ridiculous.

Of course, I wasn’t in a glee club so couldn’t quite connect to those related experiences on the show, but I do thoroughly enjoyed music and there was rarely an episode I watched where I didn’t sing and laugh along with the characters. (And oftentimes I would even listen to the soundtracks online after.) Musical tv? I’m not sold on the concept, but I was all about it for this.

I even got so excited about this series that I actually bought third-row tickets to see them in concert. I took my mom along and the entire show she couldn’t help but laugh at my ridiculous amount of excitement. But hey, these guys are performers! I was watching them do their thing outside of my TV! It was magic!

That being said, there’s a reason that I only included the DVDs for Seasons 1-4 in this photo: once the squad leaves high school, the series sort of falls apart for me. I still watched every episode until the end, but it just wasn’t the same. (Add what happened to Cory and yeah, way too much heartbreak.)

Favorite High School TV Series: SKAM || Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

SKAM

This is my most recent fav and one I feel like I need to encourage everyone to watch now before the US ruins it with their adaptation that is in the works. SKAM is a Norwegian teen drama series that primarily revolves around a close-knit group of friends (mainly the five girls pictured above) and I think it’s the most realistic and important teen series I’ve ever seen.

Each season focuses on a different character and their personal struggles, including everything from relationship difficulties, eating disorders, sexual assault, coming out, mental health issues, religion, belonging… It’s just all there. Even if you haven’t been through it any of it yourself, you may recognize these as issues your friends have struggled with and it really allows you to step into that character’s story and see their struggle. It’s just so, so good.

On top of that, this show is amazing because not only is it web-based and produce extra little tidbits like snippets of Facebook conversations between the characters while everyone is waiting for the next episode, but the community is absolutely lovely in that each week when an episode is released they pull together to provide English captioning for everyone else to fall in love with it as well.

This is the one series on this list that isn’t fully completed yet (the last season is airing now), but I had to include on this list because there’s no doubt I’ll watch it until the end. And you should too! Get to watching! (And thanks to Stacey @ Pretty Books for the recommendation!)

Favorite High School TV Series: Freaks and Geeks || Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

Freaks and Geeks

This was one of those where I went in with absolutely no expectations, but ended up enjoying. You see, while waiting for the newest season of SKAM to start I really found myself itching for some other high school series to watch. I felt like maybe I was missing out after all this time and should give some a go. I googled “best high school tv series” to see what I could find and out of the few I tried (such as Gossip Girl and Skins), this was the one I actually made it past the first two or three episodes.

Freaks and Geeks is a teen comedy-drama series that actually aired almost two decades ago. It mainly revolves around a sibling pair: Lindsay, who hangs with the freaks and Sam, who hangs with the geeks. The situations that both characters find themselves in are awkward, painful, and funny all at once, and really, isn’t that what being a teen in high school is all about?

Plus, there are a lot of recognizable actors/actresses in this show which are fun to notice while watching. James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Segel, Ben Stiller, Shia LaBeouf – those are just a few of the faces I recognized while watching (and the first three are main characters in the series). Watching the younger versions of themselves is a lot of fun and makes it all the more sad that the show only lasted one season.

Honorable Mentions

While the shows above were the first ones that came to my mind while drawing my art and writing this post, I do have a couple others I want to give a small mention to:

  • Riverdale – I’ve only recently started watching this (I think I’m on episode 5?) and while it’s not one of those shows that I give my whole attention to while watching (I tend to draw during it), I have enjoyed it. I like that there’s some mystery woven into the series and the characters are a lot of fun (though I definitely don’t think Archie belongs in high school. I may have missed something but no guys at my school looked like that).
  • The Inbetweeners – Dave introduced me to this series my first time over there and I’m not going to lie: I thought it was hilarious. The things that happen in this show are just so wrong, but you know how it is, sometimes when things are so bad they’re actually so good. Warning though, make sure you watch the UK version if you give this show a go. The US one sucks.

Your turn! What are you favorite high school series? Are there any I didn’t include that you think I should absolutely watch? Any that I mentioned that you’re sort of “meh” about? Let me know in the comments below. (And seriously, if nothing else, watch SKAM. You won’t regret it.)

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Uprooted: the book that makes me say “FIVE FUCKING STARS!!!”

Read This Books! Uprooted by Naomi Novik, the book that makes me say "FIVE FUCKING STARS!!!" | Review and Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

How did I feel about Naomi Novik’s Uprooted after finishing it? Well, let’s refer to my notes, shall we?

SO FUCKING GOOD! FIVE STARS! I finished with a huge ass smile on my face. I just, ahhh.

Hm… I’m not sure if that really encompasses my feelings. Let’s take a look at my Goodread’s review.

FIVE FUCKING STARS!!!!!!

Is this book perfect? Not necessarily. But I loved every second of it.

Okay then. There’s my thoughts on Uprooted. I gave it five stars and it makes me want to say “fucking”. That’s good enough for those who just want my general thoughts, but for those who want more…

Warning: There is some mild spoilage below. Nothing that I would consider to ruin the plot of the book or anything like that, but if you want to go into it knowing only what the blurb reveals, you may want to turn back now or read the headings but nothing else.

The unlikable but likable characters

I am a character-focused reader so of course I have to start by discussing the characters. And let me say, while I didn’t necessarily like the characters of Uprooted, I loved them. 

Think about that a second. I didn’t like them but I loved them. Seriously, the fact that Novik could make that happen makes her a queen in my book.

You see, the characters definitely had their flaws. The girl who the stories focuses on, Nieshka, was quite annoying and irritating at points with her defiant attitude and reckless actions. She was, in many ways, a Special Snowflake (warning for those who can’t stand the type) and though it was great seeing her stand up for herself and do things of her own accord, it would’ve been nice for her to think about the possible consequences of her actions before running into trouble at every possible moment.

And the Dragon? The guy who lives in a tower and kidnaps a girl from the nearby town once a decade? Well, he was definitely a cranky old man with no patience. There is no limit to the amount of verbal abuse he spews at Nieshka throughout the book and, really, it would’ve done him good at times to break himself free from his traditions.

But hey, you see all that? You see all these issues with these characters? I DIDN’T CARE!

Yeah, Nieshka was stupid at times, but it meant things kept happening! The book kept moving! There was always some nonsense going on because she couldn’t just leave well enough alone.

And sure, the Dragon was a bit of an ass, but I totally understood it! If some girl came in and totally disrupted my way of life after decades of doing what I have to do as the HBIC wizard of the land, I would be pissy and short-tempered with her as well.

For me, there was just a perfect balance for these characters to be unlikable but likable. They had their flaws (don’t we all?), but there was enough understanding on my part to still root them on.

And that’s not even getting into the other characters. Let’s just say for those of you who want strong friendships in a book: Kasia, Kasia, Kasia. I love that girl

That magic stuff

Haha, come on, don’t you remember my Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them review: Fantastic beasts, boys, and magic… It doesn’t take much to win me over? I’m a sucker for magic in stories.

I think my favorite thing about the magic in this story is how… evil it was. (That’s not surprising, huh?) I loved that The Woods was this mysterious place full of dark magic where people would disappear and the trees themselves couldn’t be trusted. And that even when the wizards used magic, it was often to fight (even at times against themselves). It didn’t seem like the magic was just used for the hell of it. It was ruthless and intimidating in many ways, and I think that’s a good thing.

I also liked the contrast that appeared between Nieshka’s and the Dragon’s magic. While it did make her seem a Special Snowflake in some ways, it was quite intriguing and I enjoyed watching their different types of magic come together.

I’d say the only thing that didn’t work for me at times was the consequence of using magic. This was one of those stories in which using magic exhausts the wizard, and using it too much can be deadly. And yet at times it seemed like wizards were using magic after magic after magic with some minor fatigue but nothing as serious of a consequence as one would expect. I mean, obviously I don’t know the daily limit to a wizard’s power, but boy, were they put to work.

Oh, and I would’ve liked Baba Jaga to make an appearance or to dive deeper into her story. I wanted to know more.

The bow-chicka-wow-wow

Lastly, let’s end this review with a word on the romance.

I am not a romance reader. I prefer stories without and will steer away if I know a book focuses heavily on the love with between two MCs. Luckily, this book isn’t like that.

Novik is sort of a tease. She gets you excited about the romance that takes place within this book, but then it pulls it apart… and the puts it back together… and then pulls it apart. I actually found myself disappointed when the romance was separated and excited to see what would come when reunited – such a rare thing for me!

There just seemed to be the perfect balance between allowing some intimacy to form between these characters without pulling away from the action of the story. Things happened, as things do, but they always turned back to the trouble at hand.

Plus, the fact that neither character ever sacrificed their identities for the other? That they were both stubborn and did what they felt needed to be done without letting their love and affection for each other get in the way? Loved it. I feel like it’s needed so much more in the stories I read.

(Though I will say wow, I’m not used to reading adult books. Some of those scenes were a bit intense… haha.)

So that’s it! My long, ramble on Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. Is it a perfect book? Not necessarily. It is sitting high on my favorites shelf? Absolutely. It’s a book it seems readers either love or hate, so hopefully you end up on the love side with me.

And, if nothing else, it’s got a pretty cover. (Well, the UK version anyways.)

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Have you read Uprooted? Let me know what you thought below! Disagree with me on anything? Anything else you loved that you think I missed? And if you haven’t read it yet, do you think you will? What can I do to convince you it’d be a good life decision?