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Friday Faves Chinese New Year Lantern

As a kid, I learned almost nothing about China in school.  We studied Utah History, American History, and even “World History,” but somehow the world was about Egypt, Greece and Rome, with only a cursory nod towards Asia.  It wasn’t until I took Asian Humanities in college that I began to be aware that there were really amazing civilizations thriving in China while Grecian and Roman emperors were strutting around Europe claiming to have conquered the “known world.”  Since then I have really enjoyed reading books set in China, both ancient and modern.  Here are some of my favorites. And you just have time to read one before Chinese New Year on February 16th. 

1.26 Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON
By Grace Lin

Each book in Lin’s series blends adventure with Chinese folktales.  In this one Min Li is worried about her poor village that is suffering from famine because of a lack of rain.  Plucking up her courage, she goes on a quest to meet the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how to help her family and friends. 


1.26 Chu Jus HouseCHU JU’S HOUSE
By Gloria Whelan

When a baby girl is born into Chu Ju’s family in modern rural China, she runs away so that her parents—hoping for a boy and limited to two children—will not send away the new child. She goes to the city and creates a new life for herself. 


1.26 Bronze and SunflowerBRONZE AND SUNFLOWER
By Wenxaun Cao

Sunflower moves from the city to a farming camp with her father during the Cultural Revolution.  When her father dies, Sunflower is adopted by a local peasant family and learns how difficult rural life in China really is. 


1.26 The Kite RiderTHE KITE RIDER
By Geraldine McCaughrean

Haoyou is given the amazing opportunity to escape his family’s poverty and become a circus performer in medieval China.  As he rides on a giant kite and performs tricks before commoners and noblemen, other forces are pulling him back to his family. 


1.26 The Empty PotTHE EMPTY POT
By Demi

The emperor proclaims that whoever can grow the most beautiful plant from the seeds he provides will be his heir. Ping accepts the challenge, but no matter what he does, his seeds won’t grow.  As the day of the judging approaches, Ping must decide what to bring to the all-powerful emperor. The other books in this list are novels, but I couldn’t resist including this folktale because it is one of my favorite picture books of all time.


 Favorite Reads of 2017

One thing I love about this time of year is all of the Best Of lists that come out.  What were the top news stories?  What movies and TV shows were most popular?  Did I watch any of them?  (Probably not, unless it was Star Wars or the Great British Baking Show.)

This got me wondering if there was a way I could make a Best Of list of my own.  Luckily, I work with some pretty awesome people who have great taste in books, so I asked them: What was your favorite book you read this year (not necessarily published this year), and why did you like it so much?  Here’s the list of books that were recommended:

1.25 Above the Dreamless DeadABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD
Edited by Chris Duffy

"I loved this collection of WWI poetry illustrated by some stellar graphic novelists. The artwork was all at once harmonious accompaniment and fresh perspective."


1.25 The Black WitchTHE BLACK WITCH
by Laurie Forest

"I think it handled a lot of social issues really well and I loved the main character’s personal growth. That doesn't happen a lot in teen literature."


1.25 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE
by Gail Honeyman

"It moved me in a way that few books have ever been able to." 


1.25 I Will Always Write BackI WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK
by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

"This book made me tear up on several occasions and there were multiple times that I sat in my driveway continuing to listen (to the audiobook) because I had to find out what happened next."


1.25 A Study in Scarlet WomenA STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN
By Sherry Thomas

"I loved the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas (A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN and the second book CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA).  Besides being excellent, page-turning, keep-you-guessing mysteries, the gender-swap concept was so well executed it was like original historical fiction rather than an adaptation on classic characters and stories."


1.25 SourdoughSOURDOUGH
by Robin Sloan

"It was light and charming but it did also make me think about issues that are important to everyone - why do we slave at jobs we don't like?  How does a person re-imagine themselves and create a life they can love every day? Though the plot was a little fantastical the book reminds you to open your mind to new habits and interests."


1.25 Strange the DreamerSTRANGE THE DREAMER
by Laini Taylor

"Laini Taylor’s world building felt deep and rich with tradition, and I loved how this book is a brand new take on the classic hero’s journey.  Also, Lazlo Strange is a librarian with a great imagination, so of course I liked him!"


1.25 Turtles All the Way DownTURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN 
by John Green

"I loved its realistic and honest portrayal of living with anxiety and OCD, the realistic characterizations and relationships, and the rather unusual story underneath all of it."


Those were some books we liked this past year.  What did you read that you really loved?

Looking for other book recommendations?  You can always check out our book review blogs here and here.  And if you want the list of books we especially loved, click on the Staff Picks label on the right.  You can also fill out a Personalized Reading Recommendation form to get personalized recommendations from one of our librarians.

 Robert Burns

I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that my first exposure to Robert Burns came in 2003 from an episode of Lizzie McGuire. Ever since then, I’ve been interested in Bobbie Burns (as he’s called in his native Scotland) and in Burns Night, one of the more random celebrations you’re likely to learn about. Every January 25th, people all over the world (okay mostly in Scotland) celebrate the life of Robert Burns on Burns Night by hosting a Burns Supper where you eat Scottish food and act Scottish and celebrate Scotland (people in Scotland are clearly very into being Scottish).

So, for those who don’t know, who was Robert Burns? And how can you celebrate your own Burns Night?

Robert Burns, who lived from 1759-1796, is definitely the most famous Scottish poet of all time, and there is something so distinctly Scottish about his writing that he is often regarded as the national poet of Scotland. His poetry is famously written in the Scots language (so it’s a little hard to understand) but it also deals with themes that are important to the Scottish people—life, death, loyalty, country, agriculture, etc.

For these reasons and others, people were eager to keep the Spirit of Robert Burns alive after he died—and so Burns Night came into existence. Burns’s fanboys are divided on exactly what Burns Night should be; for some it is a night of drinking and revelry, for others it is a somber academic endeavor. Some aspects, however, are non-negotiable.

1.24 Classic Recipes from ScotlandCLASSIC RECIPES FROM SCOTLAND
By Tom Bridge

To properly celebrate the Great Robert Burns, you need to eat like him. Though haggis and blood pudding are traditional, you can probably get away with meat pies instead. 


By Karen Jo Shapiro

A key part of any good Burns Night is the reading of poetry inspired by, about, or even satirizing good ol’ Bobbie. This children’s book has goofy parodies written in the style of a lot of well-known poets including Burns. 


1.24 WhiskeyWHISKEY
By Michael Jackson

Most die-hard fans agree that Burns Night is not complete without scotch—and this definitive guide will tell you all you need to know about how to pick the best scotch, bourbon, or whiskey. Of course, if that isn’t quite your speed, this book is also a great novice guide to learn about how scotch is distilled. 


By Robert Burns
Edited by Allan Cunningham

Ultimately, and despite what people may say, the one thing you truly need to celebrate Burns Night is a reading of his poetry. Luckily, you can check out the Complete Works of Robert Burns with your Overdrive account so you can have them wherever you go. I’m personally partial to “To a Haggis” or the near-epic “Tam O’Shanter” because of how decidedly Scottish they are. 



And of course, if you are unsure how to end your Burns Night, the traditional ending is with the singing of his most famous song – Auld Lang Syne. You can download lots of versions of this song for free from Freegal using your Provo City Library Card.

Image from page 337 of "Hill's album of biography and art : containing portraits and pen-sketches of many persons who have been and are prominent as religionists, military heroes, inventors, financiers, scientists, explorers, writers, physicians, actors, via photopin (license)

frankenstein 01


The first time I ever read Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS I knew it would always be one of my favorite books. I, of course, found the monster terrifying and was excited by the storyline but more than anything I was fascinated by Dr. Victor Frankenstein – the young, curious, brilliant scientist who accidentally created a monster. It’s a scary thought – trying to do something noble and instead doing something absolutely terrible.

This January marks the 200th anniversary of the first publishing of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN and in honor, here are some reading recommendations for Dr. Victor Frankenstein:

By Jane Miller

In the novel, we learn that Dr. Frankenstein spent two years alone at college experimenting before he was able to animate his monster, and one of the main themes of the book is what happens when people get lonely. Dr. Frankenstein definitely needed some companionship, but maybe all he needed was a nice fluffy puppy to focus his attention on. I mean… who would want to spend all night in a spooky laboratory when this guy was waiting at home?



01.22.2018 Sewing EssentialsTHE NEW SEWING ESSENTIALS
By The Singer Company

So let’s say that you’re Victor, and you’re past the point of no return. You’ve already assembled all the necessary… parts… to create your monster, and you’re in the building stage. You’re certainly going to need some instruction in sewing to make sure that your finished product is the best that he can be. He may still behave like a “wretch,” but he doesn’t need to look like one.


By Ross W. Greene

While we’re talking about “the wretch,” I don’t want to imply that the monster is somehow responsible for all of Victor’s problems. (If you’ve read the novel then you know that all the monster wants is to be loved.) But the monster sure does make things hard for his creator. It seems like Victor could use some parenting guides to help him treat his creation with love and compassion – even when the monster is being super angry and threatening to destroy everything Victor holds dear. (I mean – what teenager hasn’t said some version of that to their parents?)


By Dr. Sue Johnson

At the climax of Frankenstein’s sad story, he refuses to make a female monster to keep his creation company and “the wretch” promises Victor he’ll be there on his wedding night. This is especially inconvenient because Victor is so ashamed of what he’s created that he doesn’t tell anyone—INCLUDING HIS WIFE—about the monster systematically killing his loved ones and ruining his life. Then, because Victor is certain he can keep everything secret from his bride, he leaves her alone in their wedding bed to confront the monster himself. Not realizing that the monster is after the bride and not the groom – duh. I prescribe some open conversation between Dr. and Mrs. Frankenstein—preferably before a murderous creature intervenes.


01.22.2018 My Man JeevesMY MAN JEEVES
By P.G. Wodehouse

Dr. Frankenstein is clearly in need of some self-help books. I also don’t think it helps that he is known to carry around a copy of John Milton’s PARADISE LOST – maybe that’s even where his obsession with creation began. Frankenstein really needs some light reading, and I’dr ecommend the King of the Comic Novel: P.G. Wodehouse. Sure, this book won’t make any of his problems go away, but at least he’ll have something to laugh about.



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