Genre of the Month

Recipe: Klah from the Dragonriders of Pern Series

“This spicy drink is generally served hot, possibly with milk and/or sweetening, sometimes with a splash of a warming liquor. It is brewed from the bark of a native tree. The flavor is something like cinnamony chocolate, with a touch of hazelnut and coffee. It can be drunk cold, but the preferred taste is warm. Klah contains a mild stimulant like caffeine and is used as the morning drink. Everyone but infants drinks klah. Children frequently mix theirs with sweetening and milk until they get used to the pungent infusion.”

The Dragonrider’s Guide to Pern by Jody Lynn with Anne McCaffrey

The air is getting colder and the days shorter, so it’s a good time to take a journey into Pern and drink some nice, warm Klah.  One of the definitive stories of the Science-Fantasy genre, the world of Pern can be explored through over forty novels, novellas, atlases, and short stories!  Just in case your “to-be-read” pile wasn’t high enough.  This recipe is perfect for reading in the cold, when you need a little boost, or just when you want something sweet.  

This is a variation on the official recipe, and does contain caffeine but the alcohol is optional.  Grab your favorite mug, your dragon, and these ingredients:

Ingredients

– 1.5 cups of heavy cream

– 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

– 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

– 4 cups milk

– 2 cups brewed hazelnut coffee

– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– 1 tsp cinnamon

– Rum (optional)

Instructions

In a large pot combine all of the ingredients on low heat.  Stir regularly and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the chocolate is fully melted.  Pour into mugs, top with whipped cream, marshmallows, and some cinnamon if you like. Alternatively, you can make this in a crock-pot to keep warm over several hours or if you feel like sharing.  


We hope you enjoy this drink and happy reading!

Articles

The New Magical Book Club for Potter Fans

It was the book series that enchanted a generation. With movies, memorabilia, several theme parks, and more, the wizarding world has been a phenomenon that grips the imagination and doesn’t let go. If you, like so many other “Potterheads,” have been looking for an excuse to read the books over again we have good news!  In honor of the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Pottermore is hosting an official Wizarding World Book Club.

That’s right! You can read along with thousands of fans, new and old alike, and experience the magic all over.  Simply go to Pottermore.com and sign up.  From there, you can read along with your fellow witches and wizards from all over the world and participate in discussions about the books over twitter.  

The Experience So Far

The club is already underway, at about half-way through the first book.  Every week, themes and questions are posted on Pottermore for readers to explore. Live discussions then take place over Twitter @wwbookclub.  It has been such an amazing experience connecting with fans about this beloved series again.  Not only that, but each theme has articles and insights written by JK Rowling on their respective pages on Pottermore, which fill in some of the blanks and deepen our understanding of the wizarding world.

The only drawback to this, for me at least, has been the platform on which the discussions take place.  Twitter is not very conducive to lengthy debates or passionate ranting, both of which superfans are prone to doing.  Having to limit your very real and intense feelings about Harry Potter to only 140 characters is quite the challenge.  However, it has allowed for a large, diverse group of fans to all geek-out together and that, alone, has been magical.  

What’s to Come

The Wizarding World Book Club intends to continue reading each and every book in the series, providing more themes and insights for fans to explore together.  Starting in October, two new books about the Wizarding World will be released in tandem with the British Library’s Harry Potter Exhibition.  Harry Potter: A History of Magic – The Book of the Exhibition will explore subjects that were taught at Hogwarts, and Harry Potter – A Journey Through a History of Magic will explore many other elements of the HP universe.  Later in the fall, the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will come out just in time for you to get it for the book club. It’s going to be a magical year!  


Are you in the Wizarding World Book Club?  Let us know what you think of it, and share your favorite Harry Potter book!  

Recipes

Alcoholic Butterbeer Recipe

No need to head all the way to the Leaky Cauldron for this amazing butterbeer drink, you can make it at home!  This adult version of the Wizarding World’s most famous drink is just the right amount of sweet, bitter, and rich.  So grab your favorite mug and these ingredients:

 

Beer mixture

  • 1 bottle of Ginger Beer or Dark Beer of your choice
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Cream Mixture

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream
  • 4 egg yolks

Directions:

First, to make the beer mixture, warm the bottle of beer in a large saucepan.  Once it is warmed through, add the butter and the brown sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Set on low to keep it warm.

Next, you’ll want to make the cream.  In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and frothy.  In a heavy saucepan, heat the milk and cream until just boiling, then beat in the egg mixture until fully combined.  Next, pour in the Baileys and rum, mix well, and heat through until the mixture is thick and warm.

Take your mug and pour in the warm beer mixture until it is about two-thirds of the way full then top it off with the cream.  Optionally, you can drizzle some butterscotch syrup on top for a garnish.  Bonus house points: enjoy this butterbeer while wearing your house scarf or Quidditch jersey!  

Book Reviews

Review: Dawn of Wonder: The Wakening Book 1 by Jonathan Renshaw

“When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots. But for Aedan, a scruffy young adventurer with veins full of fire and a head full of ideas, this officer is not what he seems.

The events that follow propel Aedan on a journey that only the foolhardy or desperate would risk, leading him to the gates of the nation’s royal academy – a whole world of secrets in itself.

But this is only the beginning of his discoveries. Something is stirring in the land, something more ominous than the rising threat of hostile nations. Fearful travellers whisper of an ancient power breathing over Thirna, changing it, waking it. In the very heart of these stirrings, Aedan encounters that which defies belief, leaving him speechless with terror – and wonder.”

– Cover Summary; Dawn of Wonder

At it’s core, Dawn of Wonder is a coming of age story, focusing the young Aedan as he deals with life altering events and growing from child to young man.  The fantasy setting is richly detailed and so full of vivid descriptors that you can almost smell the cool breezes coming off the pages.  

There are ruins filled with dark mystery, cities full of intrigue, and childish shenanigans galore.  Renshaw does a very good job of keeping a balance between internal and external conflict, as well.  Not only must our young hero deal with bullies, thugs, and mythical monsters, but he also faces harsh issues such as slavery and learning to cope with trauma.  Aside from the many physical and mental hurdles Aedan must face, there is a new force, perhaps of magic or of nature, that is sweeping the lands, causing the trees to grow large and the beasts become more intelligent.  

It’s difficult to do this book justice in such a short review; there are so many layers to the plot, such depth of character development, and detail in setting that it really must be experienced.  If you love fantasy, adventure, and a meaningful story, we strongly recommend you pick up Dawn of Wonder.  Book two is already in the works, so keep an eye out for that too!  A solid 5 out of 5 stars!   

Recipes

Butterbeer Recipe

This is a tasty and easy recipe to make ice cold butterbeer at home and it’s something that fans of all ages can enjoy. It may not be as fun as going to the Three Broomsticks and getting a frosty mug there, but this drink is a nice, refreshing version of everyone’s favorite Harry Potter treat.  For the full effect, make this in a tall, thick mug and maybe drink it out on the Quidditch pitch!

 

 You will need:

  • 1 cup of Club Soda or Sparkling Water
  • 1 cup of half and half or cream (sweet cream can also be used)
  • 2 tbsp of Almond flavored soda syrup
  • 1/2 cup of ice
  • Butterscotch ice cream topping
  • Whipped Cream topping

Directions:

Fill your mug with the ice, then pour in the half-and-half and syrup.  Slowly add the Club soda until the glass is nearly full (or as full as you want it).  Finally, top with a generous amount of whipped cream and drizzle with the Butterscotch topping.  Alternatively, you can add butterscotch topping to the syrup and half-and-half for a richer, sweeter butterbeer.  Bonus house points: enjoy this butterbeer with fun straws in your house colours!  

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Sci-Fi LGBT+ Novels that don’t Suck

It’s a sad thing to admit but there is a distinct lack of well-written sci-fi books featuring LGBT protagonists.  They do exist, but they seem too often lost in a sea of romance books masquerading as sci-fi.  If you are looking for romance, well then that’s all well and good, but if you really just want a true sci-fi book with all the techno-jargon, space travel, dystopian futures, and a diverse cast but without the constant angst and love scenes, you might have a difficult time finding one you like.  Worse yet, you may find yourself in the midst of the swamp of clichés, the graveyard of throw-away characters, or the pit of faux diversity.  Hopefully, we can alleviate some of that pain by slogging through the mediocre to bring you some true science fiction gems.

Warchild Series by Karin Lowachee

Superbly written sci-fi with a wide cast of characters, this space opera is well worth the read.  Lowachee is able to craft characters you care about in a world that feels deeply developed while still remaining character-focused.  The three current books delve into multiple issues, some quite dark, each from a different character’s perspective.  For the most part, they are light on the romance as well, although Cagebird brings it front and center.  The fourth book, The Warboy, is currently awaiting a release date.  

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin 

LeftHandofDarknessLeGuin.jpg

This classic was published in 1969 as part of the Hainish Cycle. However, each book can be read as a standalone.  It focuses on a human emissary to the alien planet of Winter, where the local alien species can shift their gender.  For its time, it was groundbreaking.  The romance is still downplayed, left to subtext for the most part but the characters are interesting, well-developed, and don’t stoop to clichés.  The world building, too, is what you would expect from LeGuin.  It has a wealth of details and depth, all presented from both an outsider’s point of view and from the perspective of an insider.  Despite its age, we highly recommend this book.

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Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

SantaOliviaCarey.jpg

The synopsis of this book can seem a little misleading, making it seem like another played-out werewolf fic.  It is not, though, and more than worth a read.  It’s set in a not so distant future in which the US and Mexico are in an ongoing war, resulting in a DMZ along the border of Texas and Mexico.  The story takes place in the town of Santa Olivia within this demilitarized zone.  The setting is a gritty, realistic dystopia, but not so much one of overt malice and oppression but rather more like neglect.  The characters are all very well developed.  No one feels like a two-dimensional caricature, resulting in antagonists who are sympathetic and good guys with flaws. The lesbian romance is more central in this, but very well-written with a fully developed arc complete with both emotion and action.  If you like a bit of superhero flavor with your dystopian sci-fi, this is the one for you!

These are just a few we think break the mold and stand out as well-written and developed, with LGBT protagonists who are not simply clichés, throw-away, or there to fill a quota.  If you know of more LGBT Sci-Fi books, we’d love to hear about them! Post your favorite in the comments and

Post your favorite in the comments and Happy Pride Month!

Genre of the Month

The Grimdark Universe of Warhammer 40k

“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”

Megalithic ships looming in the bleak emptiness of space.  Ethereal, high-tech crafts streaking through the void between space and time. Enormous warriors in power armor, tech priests covered in cybernetic oddities, elven warriors with supernatural abilities, and chitinous abominations bent on devouring the galaxy.  You will find all these things and so much more awaiting you in the grimdark universe of Warhammer 40k.  

A realm of sci-fi that stands out in all its Gothic-horror, high-tech, magic glory. In the 41st millennium, the universe is a grim place.  Man has spread to a million worlds, but there are countless horrors waiting for them amongst the stars.  There are brutish Orks, haughty and territorial Eldar, and the ideological Tao, all of whom have their own ideas of how the galaxy should operate, and none of whom agree with mankind on the matter.  As for humanity, they follow the God Emperor, the beacon which guides them through the void, their salvation, and their doom.  Warhammer 40k is a complicated universe, to say the least, but from it come endless stories of valor, war, and tragedy, all nestled within a unique setting.  Navigating this bleak galaxy is dangerous and difficult, but the God Emperor has mercifully guided us to these beginnings.


Gaunt’s Ghosts

This series follows the deeds of Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and the Tanith First-and-Only, better known as Gaunt’s Ghosts.  These brave souls are not marines clad in power armor; these are men of the Imperial Guard.  Their stories are told with brutal, fast-paced action, tragedy, and the bond between soldiers who have nothing else but each other.  Reminiscent of the descriptions of WWII, Gaunt’s Ghosts will give you an intimate view of the ugliness of war in the 41st millennium.  

Space Wolves

One of the fan-favorite factions, the Space Wolves are an epic combination of space marines, vikings, and supernatural beasts.  They ride into battle on giant dire wolves and attach huge claws to their power-armored fists. They can also gain the memories of any creature they eat!  It’s wicked cool!  The Space Wolf Omnibus is a great place to read about all the epic, if slightly over the top, action.

Horus Heresy

If you want to understand one of the most important events in the history of 40k, read the Horus Heresy.  The characters and actions taken in this series shaped the galaxy in a thousand different, irreversible ways.  The primary focus of this series is Horus, the Emperor’s favorite son, and how descent in the ranks leads to a rift within the Empire.  There are so many things that happen in the Horus Heresy series that it really must be experienced first hand.  


These are just a few examples to get you started, and once you’ve seen the Imperium, it only gets more grim and dark from there.  From there, you can travel “cannot-be” void of the warp to visit the tomb worlds of the Necrons, the hives of the Tyranids, or the endless horror show that comprise the realms of the dark Eldar.  If you like a little horror, a Gothic flavor, and a bit of arcano-punk with your sci-fi, the 41st millennium is the place to be!  

Genre of the Month, Recipes

Bangers and Mash

Still a favorite in pubs and restaurants around the world, this British dish frequently makes an appearance in historical novels set in working class England.  It’s a hearty meal, and very easy to prepare.  So if you need a good meal to warm your belly while reading tales of the working class, grab a hammer, suspenders, and these ingredients.

  • 4-6 Beer-soaked sausages
  • 1.5 Pounds of golden potatoes, skinned
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • (Optional) Brown or onion gravy, cheese, and/or peas and carrots

Fill a large pot 3/4th’s full of water, and allow to boil.  Once boiling, add the potatoes, cover, and let boil for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.  In a large skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter, then add the onions and garlic.  Sauté the onions until soft, then add the sausages.  Make sure to turn the sausages regularly so they are thoroughly cooked on all sides. Once the potatoes are soft, drain the water, add a splash of milk, and as much butter as you like.  Mash to a fine puree; optionally you can mix in some cheddar cheese or canned peas and carrots at this point.  Spoon a hearty helping of mashed potatoes onto your plates, optionally top with gravy, then add one or two sausages and onions.  Enjoy your warm, filling meal!

Genre of the Month, Recipes

Amaretto Cherry Poached Pears

Poached pears have been a favorite dessert for hundreds of years and have been featured in several historical fiction novels.  They are more easily made in autumn when pears are at the height of their season, but thanks to modern grocers we can get canned and sometimes fresh pears year round.  The term “poaching” may be a little intimidating to some, but this recipe is much easier than you might think!  If you want a sweet treat to enjoy while reading a historical novel set in the 16th to 18th centuries?  Grab a powdered wig, hand fan, and these ingredients.  

  • 4 anjou pears, slightly firm
  • 1 cup amaretto
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons cherry syrup
  • Vanilla bean Ice cream

Peal the pears, cut in half lengthwise, and remove the cores.  In a medium saucepan, combine the amaretto, water, and syrup to a boil.  Then, add the pears, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Allow the pears to poach for 25-30 minutes or until the pears are soft enough for a fork to go through easily.  Remove the pears from the mixture and place in desired serving dishes, the return the remaining liquid to medium-high heat and simmer until the mixture thickens.  Pour the syrupy liquid over the pears, add a scoop of ice cream, and enjoy!

Genre of the Month

Alternate Punk Subgenres – Sandal, Candle, and Silk

 

At this point, most people are aware of the steam-powered, brass-goggled mayhem that is the steampunk genre.  And many people probably can recognize the neon, holographic entertainment riot which constitutes the cyberpunk genre.  There are, however, many other punk genres that don’t get nearly the same amount of attention and publicity that they perhaps should.  

If you have no idea what “punk” subgenres are, here’s a quick explanation.  Punk is a tag that is often used to describe a number of sci-fi/alternate history genres that heavily rely on “retro-futurism.”  That is, the combination of the technology, fashion, and tropes of specific historical eras with a fantastic futuristic spin.  With the exception of cyberpunk and nanopunk, which are more like a retro idea of what the far future would look like, the punk genres operate with the idea that futuristic technologies evolved within the context of past eras.  Thus, steampunk is full of steam powered jet-packs, airships, and outlandish Victorian vehicles all encased in brass and glass.  

But if the be-goggled, Victorian steampunk doesn’t quite do it for you, and you’re not into the neon, holographic mohawks of cyberpunk, maybe some of these sub-punk genres will be more to your liking.  

Sandalpunk

This subgenre assumes that early western iron-age civilizations never fell, and essentially, ancient Greece and Rome continued to evolve to develop advanced technology.  This one tends to include a lot of fantasy elements as well, with colossal bronze statues, mechanical gorgons, and machine driven chariots   A bit silly?  Yes.  Still freaking awesome?  You bet!  Check out The Hesperian Trilogy by Alan Smale.

Silkpunk

Silkpunk consists of motor-driven technology with far east aesthetics using ancient eastern materials such as silk, bamboo, and paper, as well as the island aesthetics of south-east Asia using coral, feathers, and coconuts.  This one is relatively new on the “sub-punk” scene, but it already has several amazing literary examples that we highly recommend!  As one of the few sub-punks that does not heavily rely on western or European themes, Silkpunk is poised to be the next big, unique punk genre.  We cannot recommend enough The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu and The Red Threads of Fortune by J.Y. Yang.

Candlepunk

Jumping just a little bit ahead in time, Candlepunk, also sometimes called Castlepunk, assumes that the medieval era kingdoms continued to develop future technologies.  The best part of this one, however, is its own subgenre, Plaguepunk.  Think alchemical guns, plague masks, and a grim-dark medieval setting!  Try The Plague Tales by Ann Benson and Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

Rococopunk

Much of the fashion of the Rococo era already lends itself well to “punk” genres, with its outlandish, ship covered wigs, porcelain doll-esque makeup, and excessively frilly clothing.  It’s not a huge stretch to imagine these aesthetics being applied to porcelain mechanized butlers or clockwork powered ships.  Rococopunk exists in the space between Steampunk and Candlepunk, slightly more silly than both, but definitely more punk.  The unique thing about this particular sub-punk genre is that it also focuses on the era in which so many wars, particularly Revolutionary wars, took place.  So it presents an interesting dichotomy between beautiful fashion with retro-futuristic war machines.  Check out Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson.

Decopunk

This one takes the beautiful aesthetics of art deco in the 1920’s and applies retro-futurism to that.  It usually features mobsters, gold guns, and lots of heavy deco architecture.  Outside of literature, one of the best examples of decopunk are the first two Bioshock video games, which mix decopunk and biopunk in the wonderfully derelict underwater city of Rapture.  If you are interested in decopunk be prepared to be assaulted by lots of gold and intricate designs with hard lines; it’s wonderful!  Try BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley.  

This list hardly scratches the surface of the many sub-punk genres, and if you love alternate history, we highly recommend you check them all out!  Which sub-punk genre is your favorite?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments!