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  • audio myths

     

    Why do audiobooks get such a bad rap? Below I discuss the top 10 most commonly held myths about audiobooks.

    Myth 1: Listening to an audiobook is not the same thing as reading…it’s sort of like cheating.

    Some people may consider the process of reading a book cover to cover a point of pride. Listening to an audiobook doesn’t require the same amount of effort so it’s almost like getting the reward without putting in the work.

    Daniel Willingham, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia explains that when examining the mental process, for the most part, there is no real difference between listening and reading. He goes on to describe that when we read, our mind is doing two things; decoding words from their letters and processing language which is used both in reading and listening to comprehend the narrative. Willingham states that by about fifth grade, we’ve mastered the ability to decode words, so the difference between reading and listening becomes negligible.

    If the act of decoding were the reason why we read, listening to audiobooks might be cheating, but reading is about appreciating the journey and the destination, not the “work” it takes to get there.

    To learn more about this, I suggest reading one of these articles about Willingham’s research.

    NY Magazine: As Far as Your Brain is Concerned, Audiobooks are Not ‘Cheating’ 

    Washington Post: Is Listening to a Book ‘Cheating?’

    Daniel Willingham Blog: Is Listening to an Audio Book "Cheating?"

    Myth 2: Audiobooks are only for people who don’t really like to read.

    Slow readers, reluctant readers, or people learning English. These are the types of people who should be listening to audiobooks, right? Yes, they are, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Audiobooks don’t need to replace reading print books. They are there to augment them.

    If you’re like me, your to-be-read (TBR) pile is a mile high. It seems like every day there is a new “must read” title released. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the books to be read. Adding audiobooks in with regular reading is a great way to stay on top of that TBR list.

    Myth 3: Reading a book is more convenient.

    Maybe this was true in the past, but with technology has come convenience. It’s so easy to download an audiobook or pop a CD into your car’s audio system. Taking the plunge will be easier than you might think.

    Myth 4: Reading is about consuming the book the way the author intended.

    This is probably the most debatable myth on this list. Consuming a book through a mediator (the narrator) always runs a risk. A story could be ruined by a bad narrator who just doesn’t get the author’s meaning. However, I question how frequently this actually happens.

    In an NPR article with George Guidall (one of the greatest narrators of all time) he describes his relationship with author Wally Lamb who is one of Guidall’s biggest fans. The two have developed a close working relationship. Lamb was quoted as saying, “When I listen to George translate or interpret my work, it's just accurate. It's how I think of the characters speaking."

    Listening to a truly good narrator read a book brings the story to life. For me, narrator Simon Vance IS Captain Will Laurence in the novel HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON by Naomi Novik. When I think of this character I hear Simon Vance’s voice. In fact, I get a big smile on my face every time I begin a new audiobook in the series.

    Myth 5: Audiobooks are less intimate than print.

    Sure there are definitely times when more quiet reflective reading is called for, but that doesn’t mean listening can’t be intimate as well. For example, it is becoming quite common for celebrities to narrate their own memoirs. It’s like experiencing a private performance just for you.

    Myth 6: Audiobooks are too slow.

    Again with the technology! Yes, there was a time when (especially for fast readers), listening felt too slow, but now most listening devices allow you to choose the narration speed. Listening at 1.5x speed takes a second to get used to, but then I hardly notice after that.

    Myth 7: It’s too easy to get distracted and miss something.

    Getting distracted or letting your mind wander can happen both while reading and listening. I already mentioned the research by psychologist Daniel Willingham, where you’ll find this concern is addressed more scientifically. I’d just like to say there is such a thing as a rewind button on CD players and a jump back 15 seconds option on most mobile devices. In addition, I’ve been listening to audiobooks while driving, exercising, and doing chores for years. If I get distracted, I rarely feel like I’ve missed enough to have lost track of the story completely.

    Myth 8: Audiobook narrators have super annoying voices.

    Maybe you had a bad experience once where listening to the audiobook ruined the whole story for you. I’m here to tell you that the production value of audiobooks has increased exponentially in recent years. These days professional voice actors, celebrity actors, and comedians create excellent narrations that bring stories to life. Jim Dale, anyone?

    Yes, there are still those stinkers out there, but those are becoming few and far between.

    Myth 9: There’s not a very good selection of books in audiobook format.

    If you haven’t been paying attention, you may not know that audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing world. With this growth in popularity and sales, more and more books are being produced as audiobooks.

    Did you know with a Provo City Library card, you have access to almost 28,000 audiobooks?

    • Nearly 10,000 books on CD
    • Over 7,000 downloadable audiobooks from OneClickdigital 
    • Over 11,000 downloadable audiobooks from OverDrive  

    Myth 10: Audiobook abridgements and waiting for the release of the audiobook are the worst!

    In years past it was far more common to find abridged versions of audiobooks (especially with nonfiction titles). Another past concern was being forced to wait six months between the release of the book and audiobook. I’m happy to report that these problems are nearly entirely in the past. Abridgements have almost completely disappeared and most audiobooks are now being released simultaneously with the book.

    So are you ready to start listening to an audiobook?

    Here are some great places to listen:

    • The commute
    • While exercising
    • Getting ready in the morning
    • Doing dishes
    • Yard work
    • Folding clothes
    • Crafts or scrapbooking
    • Putting together a puzzle or other simple games
    • Driving on a road trip

    In addition to making long or boring tasks go faster, audiobooks are also great for:

    • Sharing the experience with others
    • Bringing stories to life
    • Making comprehension easier
    • Helping with difficult to pronounce or foreign words
    • Appreciating the cadence and rhythm of a book
    • Bringing a new perspective

    So pick up or download an audiobook today and make your life just a little more enjoyable!

  • Ever wonder how librarians hone their recommendation skills? Sometimes, our librarians play a game we call the 6 Degrees of reading. The rules are simple: choose six books, each connected somehow to the book above it, with the last book in the list connecting to the first. Periodically, we like the results enough to share them with you. So, with no further ado, we bring you 6 Degrees of Reading: Games and Globalization. 

    games and globalization 01

    THAT’S NOT ENGLISH: BRITISHISMS, AMERICANISMS, AND WHAT OUR ENGLISH SAYS ABOUT US
    by Erin Moore  
    (2015)

    American by birth, author Erin Moore, now living in London with her Anglo-American husband, uses wit and humor to explore the historical and cultural differences of English language usage between Americans and British. Through several themed chapters on topics ranging from snacking habits to raising children, Moore explores the etymology of words on both sides of the pond and what these differences say about us.

    GLOBISH: HOW THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE BECAME THE WORLD’S LANGUAGE
    by Robert McCrum
    (2010)

    Robert McCrum discusses how English language usage has spread from Great Britain to everywhere on earth as he takes readers on a whirlwind tour of British and American history and their mark on the world up through modern times where people in Asia are racing to learn the English. In the 1980s, there was a fear that the English language would degenerate into a vast number of dialects. However, with the modern globalization of the world, English has not only avoided this fate, but grown to become the language of choice around the globe.

    HOW SOCCER EXPLAINS THE WORLD: THE UNLIKELY THEORY OF GLOBALIZATION
    by Franklin Foer  
    (2004)

    Using soccer to show differences and commonalities, Foer reveals how the globalization of the world is simultaneously making everywhere more alike and more different as people seek to define themselves through their love of soccer. By examining the game, he focuses on understanding how international forces affect politics and life around the globe. Showing how in some places sport and competition can be used as a method to keep hatred, racism, or religious tolerance alive and in other places it is used as a modernizing force (such as in Iran where women forced police to allow them into a men’s-only stadium to celebrate a win for their national team).

    THE MONOPOLISTS: OBSESSION, FURY, AND THE SCANDAL BEHIND THE WORLD'S FAVORITE BOARD GAME
    by Mary Pilon
    (2015)

    Sport and competition have always resulted in high stakes. Look no further than Mary Pilon’s revealing book into the turbulent history of the Monopoly board game. Pilon reveals the Monopoly's interesting origins including the lost female originator of the game,  the Parker Brothers' attempts to blockade the development of other similar games, and the competitive rivalry between Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley. This is an interesting read about the origins of a beloved board game, the folk history surrounding it, and the corporate greed that made it into the iconic game it is today.

    WORD FREAK: HEARTBREAK, TRIUMPH, GENIUS, AND OBSESSION IN THE WORLD OF COMPETITIVE SCRABBLE PLAYERS
    by Stefan Fatsis
    (2001)

    WORD FREAK looks into the world of extreme competitive Scrabble. What began for author Stefan Fatsis as a curious look at the sport for a journal article quickly turned into an obsession for the board game that converted him from a “living room player” into actually competing along with the world’s best players. The book humorously portrays the irreverent crowd that competes at this level and mixes in historical facts about the board game. Fatsis also explains how players must be able to memorize words well above what one would use in normal language usage. This is a provocative look at the world of games and the way the mind works with words.

    THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN: A TALE OF MURDER, INSANITY, AND THE MAKING OF THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY
    by Simon Winchester
    (1998)

    The fascinating look into how a madman and murderer submitted over ten thousand definitions of words for the first Oxford English Dictionary. Genius Dr. W.C. Minor was diagnosed with schizophrenia after his experiences in the American Civil War. After traveling to London where he killed a man and was sent to an insane asylum, Minor came across a leaflet asking for volunteers to help compile a history of the English language. Minor wrote to the editor and offered his services while remaining vague about his circumstances. Author Simon Winchester not only chronicles this interesting man but also the momentous effort it took to build the Oxford English Dictionary as a way to help document the etymology of words in the English language.

  • hip hop and history 01

    Ever wonder how librarians hone their recommendation skills? Sometimes, our librarians play a game we call the 6 Degrees of reading. The rules are simple: choose six books, each connected somehow to the book above it, with the last book in the list connecting to the first. Periodically, we like the results enough to share them with you.

    This week, history and hip hop collide, and it's electric! (see what I did there?)

    ALEXANDER HAMILTON
    by Ron Chernow
    (2004)

    The book the hit Broadway musical was based on. Until recently Alexander Hamilton was not as well esteemed and avidly written about like the other gifted men of his time. However, Chernow makes the case that Hamilton should be considered one of the most important Founding Fathers arguing that without his financial brilliance and creation of public finance, the United States might not have survived beyond the first few years.

    HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION
    by Lin-Manuel Miranda
    (2016)

    This book takes readers behind the scenes of the new Broadway hit musical based on the life of Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. Mixing a variety of musical styles including hip-hop, pop, R&B, and musical theater, the story gives insight into Hamilton's life, the Revolutionary war, and the early American time period.

    YOUR FAVORITE BAND IS KILLING ME: WHAT POP MUSIC RIVALRIES REVEAL ABOUT THE MEANING OF LIFE
    by Steven Hyden
    (2016)

    At some point, we've all argued why we prefer one band over another from their lyrics to antics off the stage. Author Steven Hyden uses 19 different band rivalries from the famous Beatles/Rolling Stones competition to hip-hop artists, Biggie vs. Tupac and what deeper truths we can learn from these rivalries.

    BIRDMEN: THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, GLENN CURTISS, AND THE BATTLE TO CONTROL THE SKIES
    by Lawrence Goldstone
    (2014)

    An interesting exploration of the rivalry between the Wright brothers and Glenn Hammond Curtiss to be the first to invent a machine capable of sustained flight. Goldstone takes readers through their design innovations, false starts, and dreams of the ultimate prize which was finally captured by Wilbur and Orville Wright.

    TESLA: INVENTOR OF THE ELECTRICAL AGE
    by W. Bernard Carlson
    (2013)

    When you think of inventions using electricity, Thomas Edison is more widely known than the eccentric Nicola Tesla. In his book, however, author W. Bernard Carlson, sheds light on the Tesla, his inventions, and his many successes and failures. This book looks at the what, how, and why he was motivated to invent.

    BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: AN AMERICAN LIFE
    by Walter Isaacson
    (2004)

    This book traces the life of one of America's great Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was a man of a variety of interests many of which have been woven into our American heritage. From his early days as a printer to scientist, inventor, and politician, Benjamin Franklin was one of the most accomplished men of his age. The book even covers his interest in the power of electricity and his experimentation done with lightning to determine if they were the same.

  • podcasts

     

    Podcasts are quickly becoming one of the most enjoyable ways to revel in the world of books. Some of you may already be on the podcast bandwagon. Others may be wondering why I still think it’s 2005. 

    With the invention of the iPod in 2001, it didn’t take long for a genre of narrative audio named after the device to become a cool new trend. There were podcasts about politics, sports, literature, comedy, and much more. However, sometime around 2009, the trend seemed to die off. Downloading podcasts was cumbersome to say the least. You had to subscribe to the podcast on your computer, download the episode, then plug in your iPod’s cord to transfer the episode. The process then had to be repeated for every new episode. 

    Ironically, now that the iPod has been discontinued, we are experiencing a resurgence. This is likely happening for a few different reasons. Technology has finally improved enough to make listening to podcasts easy and convenient. There has also been a rise in the production quality. Talented professionals including radio outlets like NPR have begun to focus on the medium. Although, there are still plenty of great amateur podcasts, and what they lack in polish they make up for in energy. One final reason for the resurgence in podcasts is…cars. People are becoming more and more interested in consuming media while on the move. This also includes listening while performing household chores, exercising and more. Listeners are now able to access on-demand podcasts instantly and wherever they are. 

    According to the 2017 Edison Research report, 67 million Americans listened to at least one podcast in the last month. Today, a very different problem exists. We are in a golden age of podcasting, and there are just too many great podcasts to keep up with including when you narrow it down to just book related podcasts. With that in mind, I have curated a list of some of the best podcasts that talk about books. 

    For part one, I wanted to focus on podcasts that discuss books such as what to read next or book club podcasts. But be sure to check back soon for part two which will discuss themed podcasts and some of the best storytelling podcasts being created. 

    bbc world blook clubBBC World Book Club

    Schedule: Weekly 

    The BBC’s World Book Club features some of the most famous authors on the planet discussing their most renowned works. Imagine showing up at a book club where the author is there to discuss and offer insights into their work. While many podcasts focus on new and buzzworthy books, this podcast mixes current hits with classics of yesteryear. One week might feature a current best-selling author. The next week has a lively discussion about Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, or J. D. Salinger. 

     

    book riot podcastBook Riot Podcast

    Schedule: Weekly 

    Brought to you by the editors of Book Riot, a blog covering book-related news, reviews, commentary, advice and information, the podcast features Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Schinsky, two smart and quick-witted hosts who will make you laugh out loud. 

    Along with great book recommendations (making your TBR pile explode), the hosts discuss insights into the publishing world, tips on diversifying your reading selection, and research-oriented programming such as notes and commentary on how reading affects human behavior. 

     

    books on the nightstandBooks on the Nightstand

    Schedule: Weekly 

    Funny and knowledgeable hosts, Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, two friends and colleagues working in the book publishing industry, discuss all things related to the world of books, bookstores and especially publishing. You don't have to work in the publishing industry to love this podcast, though. It is designed for anybody who likes to read and wants to stay up to date with what's happening in the world of books. 

    One of the most popular features is the last segment, “two books we can’t wait for you to read.” It’s where the hosts tell you about books that they love, most of which are newly published or about to be published. 

     

    dear book nerdDear Book Nerd

    Schedule: Bi-weekly 

    Another Book Riot podcast, Dear Book Nerd is hosted by librarian, Rita Meade, and features an always changing lineup of guests from the world of books. Together they answer readers’ book-related queries and dilemmas, including writing advice, the risky business of lending books, how to talk to people who don’t like reading, and how to avoid friends who provide poorly thought-out book recommendations. It’s a bit nerdy in the best possible way, and the format ensures that the podcast will never grow stale. 

     

    guardian books podcast1Guardian Books

    Schedule: Weekly 

    Guardian Books is a product of popular British newspaper, The Guardian. Guardian Books editor Claire Armitstead is the force behind the podcast which is a hodgepodge of book related topics that include literary reviews, author interviews, and of course book recommendations. 

    Though perhaps a little drier than some of the others on this list, it is never short of interesting angles and big name guests making it a good podcast to find the current pulse-point of the literature world. 

     

    KCRW BookwormKCRW Bookworm

    Schedule: Weekly 

    Michael Silverblatt has been the host of Bookworm, a nationally syndicated radio program focusing on books and literature since 1989. It is a premier literary talk show providing intellectual, accessible, and provocative literary conversations. Now available as a podcast, Silverblatt interviews writers of fiction and poetry both established and emerging drawing them into conversations about their works. Bookworm is a fascinating podcast that, at its heart, is a discussion on how to read, listen, and engage. 

     

    literary discoLiterary Disco

    Schedule: Bi-monthly 

    Julia, Tod, and Rider are three writers who are friends and also happen to be self-proclaimed “book nerds.” The show covers a diverse mix of books from literary fiction to children’s books and focuses on the hosts who chat about books like you would with your own friends. They have a way of slipping in pop culture references and intermixing them with books in a way that is highly entertaining. Like any great book chat, the discussions are personal, informative and prone to tangents. 

     

    Slates Audio Book ClubSlate’s Audio Book Club

    Schedule: Monthly 

    Slate Magazine, an online magazine that covers current affairs, politics, and culture in the United States, offers a lively book club podcast. Each month, a rotating group of Slate’s writers and guests discuss buzzworthy books in the traditional back-and-forth of a book club format. If you’ve read the book, it’s especially easy to get caught up in the debate as the hosts argue with one another in entertaining and sometimes heated ways. You also find the discussions typically provide additional insight into the characters and the book itself which you may have missed. 

    Can't find a book club in your neighborhood? Then this is the podcast for you. 

     

    what should i read nextWhat Should I Read Next? 

    Schedule: Weekly 

    Have you ever finished a book and been confronted with the problem of not knowing what to read next? In the podcast What Should I Read Next?, book blogger Anne Bogel A.K.A. the Modern Mrs. Darcy, invites a guest to share three books they love, one book they hate, and what they’ve been reading lately. Then, she makes recommendations about what to read next. This podcast is for every reader who wants help finding that next great read.

  • podcasts

    In The Best Book Related Podcasts—Part 1, I listed the best podcasts that discuss the book world such as buzzworthy new books, what to read next, and book club podcasts. For part two, I will be discussing podcasts that focus on stories. 

    Storytelling has been around since the dawn of man. We all love stories. Stories ignite feelings and emotions without having to go anywhere or do anything. They appeal to the power of our imaginations, to our curiosity, and to our desire to know more. 

    Unlike in Britain where the audio drama has been going strong for nearly a century, the audio storytelling resurgence in the U.S. has taken a while to get here—previously American audio dramas hit their high point between the 1920s and 40s before television took over. But with the innovation of the podcast and the ease with which we can now access them, the format has provided a platform for creators to produce compelling new audio dramas. Great audio storytellers don’t need an image because they possess an incredible ability to make you feel like you are there. Podcasts give us opportunities to revel in stories whether they are new creations or discussing our favorite printed stories such as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings. 

    Below you will find a list of some of the best podcasts that appeal to our love of stories. Though, if none of these appeal to you, there are hundreds more out there! 

    black tapesThe Black Tapes

    Schedule: Bi-monthly 

    The Black Tapes is a fictional, docu-drama podcast brought to you by Pacific Northwest Stories, a former radio show that now functions as a podcast network. Hosted by Alex Reagan, The Black Tapes is a serialized story about “one journalist’s search for the truth, her subject’s mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both.” 

    This podcast is just finishing up its third season, so you may want to go back and start at the beginning. 

    If you like The Black Tapes, be sure to check out their other productions like Tanis

     

    harry potter and the sacred textsHarry Potter and the Sacred Text

    Schedule: Weekly 

    The world just can’t get enough of Harry Potter since the first book was released 20 years ago. People have grown up loving these stories. In Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile reread a chapter of the series each episode (beginning with book one) and then discuss in relation to a theme or moral issue they have picked out. Themes include concepts like commitment, loyalty, hospitality, forgiveness, escape, belonging, shame, control, and more. It’s the meaningful conversations you didn't know you craved about Harry Potter. 

    So far the podcast is in its fourth season with each season devoted to one book. Start at the beginning or dive right in. 

    If you love Harry Potter, but this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then be sure to check out MuggleCast, the most listened-to Harry Potter podcast on the web. 

     

    home frontHome Front

    Schedule: Daily 

    Home Front, produced by BBC Radio 4 is a British radio drama that began August 4, 2014 which was exactly 100 years after the beginning of World War I. Each episode is set exactly one hundred years before the day of the broadcast and tells the story of World War I from the perspective of those affected by it in wartime Britain. Part of the BBC’s World War I centenary season, the radio drama is planned to run until November 11, 2018, one hundred years after the Armistice. 

    Each episode is about 12 minutes long and focuses on a single character's point of view as they progress, day by day through the war. Though, the characters and stories are fictional, it is firmly rooted in the actual events of Great Britain during the First World War. 

     

    the messageThe Message

    8 episodes published in 2015
    Schedule: Weekly 

    Looking for something a little shorter to test the podcast waters? The Message is an eight episode scripted podcast in the style of an old radio drama. It follows “the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 weeks, listeners follow a team of top cryptologists as they attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.” 

    The Message is a science fiction podcast co-produced by Panoply and GE Podcast Theater. If you subscribe to the podcast, you will also get bonus production, LifeAfter, a 10 episode scripted show. 

     

    selected shortsSelected Shorts

    Schedule: Weekly

    Produced by Symphony Space, a multi-disciplinary performing arts center in New York City and distributed by Public Radio International, Selected Shorts is a carefully curated selection of spellbinding short stories written by established and emerging writers which take on a new life when they are performed by a variety of recognizable stars of the stage and screen. The show is recorded live at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York City and also goes on tour. 

     

    there and back againThere and Back Again

    Schedule: Weekly 

    Originally produced by StoryWonk and now transferred to Point North Media, story expert Alastair Stephens dives deep into the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Delightful, insightful and funny, this podcast is great for both lifelong fans and those new to the fantasy series. 

    Point North Media also offers Dear Mr. Potter, an extremely close reading of the series. You might also want to consider StoryWonk’s back log of podcasts dedicated to Pride and Prejudice, Star Wars, Outlander, and more. 

     

    the truthThe Truth

    Schedule: Bi-monthly 

    One of the longest running podcasts on this list, The Truth was ahead of its time in 2012 when it set out to revitalize the audio drama for a new generation. The show features dramatic short stories that combine great writing with feeling performances and subtle sound effects. Its tagline is “movies for your ears.” Every story is different, and they're usually around 10 to 20 minutes long. From an alternative history trip to the moon, to the death of Edgar Allen Poe, The Truth’s subject matter has always been very eclectic. 

     

    welcome to night valeWelcome to Night Vale 

    Schedule: Bi-monthly

    Taking the form of a darkly funny radio show, Welcome to Night Vale is a serial podcast about the fictional desert town of Night Vale where every conspiracy theory is true. The town plays host to ghosts, aliens and a whole host of other shadowy characters. 

    Where other audio dramas usually contain a full cast of actors, Night Vale is performed by one narrator with some sound effects. If you like suspense and horror mixed with humor, Welcome to Night Vale is the podcast for you. The show has also been converted into two novels, WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE and IT DEVOURS! which can be checked out from the library. 

     

    wynebago warriorWynabego Warrior

    Schedule: Monthly 

    In one of the only audio comedies on this list, this is the tale of John Waynnabe who yearns to live in the old west he remembers from the silver screen of his youth. One day he decides to trade in his old beat up Pinto and hit the road in search of that life, heading west, in a Winnebago R.V. where he looks for people in need of help. The story is full of peril and danger, redemption, and renewal and is sure to appeal of fans of adventure stories and westerns.

     
  • BB 2016 FB

    Each of us has read dozens of teen books in the last year in preparation to share the Best Young Adult Books of 2016. Not everything we read was a contender L. In the end, we along with two other colleagues have compiled our 50 favorite teen reads. Here are five books that ALMOST made the cut, but not quite.

    Darcy Swipes LeftDARCY SWIPES LEFT
    by Courtney Carbone
    (2016)

    Jane Austen meets the smart phone in this fun, modern telling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Told via text messages, emoticons, emails, and more; I really enjoyed this version of the classic. The book was fast paced and less detailed than the original, but the story line was still true to the characters that generations have come to love. In the end, I found that there were just a few other books that I wanted to talk about more than this one.

     

     

    TruthwitchTRUTHWITCH
    by Susan Dennard
    (2016)

    This book is loaded with political intrigue, magic, thrilling fight scenes, mythical creatures, and romance.   Two best friends, both gifted with special magical abilities, are faced with a world on the verge of war.  TRUTHWITCH just barely missed our top 50 list.  The political intrigue and complicated plot (that many people will love) didn’t work for me quite as much as I wanted and other standout novels were able to slide this exciting adventure out of my ‘best of the best’ list.

     

     

     

    Tell Me Something RealTELL ME SOMETHING REAL 
    by Calla Devlin
    (2016)

    When the three Babcock sisters learn something that makes them question everything their tight-knit family is founded on, they all have to come to terms with things in their own way. To be honest, I liked this book better than some of the other books I’m going to talk about at Best Books. It kept me guessing all the way through, the writing was beautiful, and I thought it was really well done.  The thing that held me back from showcasing this one is the setting.  Set in 1976, this book is a little too contemporary for me to classify as historical fiction, but the world has changed a lot since then.  Although I think teens will enjoy this book, it feels more like a book written to appeal to adults who read YA, rather than to teens themselves.

     

    This Adventure EndsTHIS ADVENTURE ENDS 
    by Emma Mills
    (2016)

    Emma Mills got a lot of praise for her 2015 book, FIRST & THEN, which I haven’t read.  I need to fix this problem immediately, however, because I read THIS ADVENTURE ENDS in almost one sitting.  This book, about a group of friends all dealing with the changes that being a senior in high school brings, was so fun!  I loved how real the characters felt, but they didn’t take themselves too seriously.  It even has a Nicholas Sparks-like character that loses his motivation to write, and finds it again by writing what is basically Vampire Academy fanfiction.  At the end of the day, I had to choose, and I felt like some of the award winners I’d read should be showcased more than this one despite my love for it.

     

    Holding Up the Universe   Blog SizeHOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE 
    by Jennifer Niven
    (2016)

    Jennifer Niven’s books are always well written with great characters and emotional complexity. She doesn’t shy away from harsh topics and this book is no exception. Libby Strout is overweight, but that seems to be the only thing people know or want to know about her. Jack Masselin is a confident boy despite the fact that he is unable to recognize faces. Jack and Libby are not in the same social class at school, yet the more they get to know each other the more they recognize their similarities rather than their differences. Since we recommended Niven’s ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES last year, we decided to give another author some recognition this year.

     

     To see what we did make the cut, join us for The Best Books of 2016 on February 22nd!

     

     

  • Book Trivia

     

    Are you a bookworm? Book nerd? Book fiend? Bibliophile? Literary savant? Reading wunderkind? Maybe you just really love Jeopardy and all things trivia.  If so, this event is for you.

    Join us at 7:00pm on Friday, June 24th for an evening of book trivia.  Create your own team of 4-8 people or simply join a team after you arrive.  Contestants ages 10 and up are welcome, and no prior registration is required.  Play for the glory (and for the prizes)!

    To whet your appetite, we’ve compiled a few sample questions for you.  If you come to our Book Trivia Night with the correct answers to all three questions, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a Barnes and Noble gift card, in addition to having a shot at first, second, or third place game prizes.  No researching or sharing answers, please!

    1. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund betrays his siblings and friends for a taste of what candy?  
    2. Truman Capote was childhood friends with what beloved author who died earlier this year, a few months after her controversial and long-awaited second novel was published?  
    3. After realizing that he could draw things (hint, hint) even if he couldn’t draw horses, Maurice Sendak changed the name of his classic picture book from “Land of Wild Horses” to what?
  • borrow ebooks

    I recently learned that Google has made finding free legal eBooks that can be borrowed from the library easier than ever. I was curious how well it worked, so I experimented with the feature. Here is what I discovered for both desktop and mobile versions.

    Desktop Computer3.12 Desktop Version

    After entering a book title on Google, the feature appears on the right side within what is known as the Google Knowledge Graph display. Basically, there is a box on the right side of the screen next to the search results. The box contains information about the book including ratings and reviews from various websites, book summary, publication date, author, genre, awards (if any), online bookstores where it is available to be purchased and FINALLY the Borrow ebook section.

    Be aware that if the book title is not available from the library, you will not see the Borrow ebook section. However, keep reading for additional search quirks.

    If the eBook is available, you will see a list of libraries within your geolocated range or, in other words, libraries nearby. If the wrong libraries are displayed, you can change your location by clicking on the Edit Location link and entering your zip code or city name. The library list will then reload.

    Don’t see Provo City Library listed? No problem.

    Provo City Library’s eBook holdings are found within the Utah’s Online Library collection. Utah’s Online Library gives Provo City Library card holders access to both the Provo City Library eBook collection and the Utah State Library collection.

    After searching, click on Utah’s Online Library to either borrow the item immediately or place a hold which will then notify you via email when the eBook is available.

    Please note, to borrow free legal eBooks from the online library, you will need a Provo City Library card. Library cards from other Utah libraries can also be used to check out eBooks from Utah’s Online Library, but will not give you access to Provo City Library’s collection.

     

    Mobile Device3.12 Mobile Version

    After searching Google on a mobile device, look for the block of color in the search results that shows the title and author of the book. Just below the title and author is a mini menu.

    Tap on Get Book in the mini menu. Then look for Borrow ebook. This section can be found just below the list of online bookstores.Tap on Utah’s Online Library. You will then be redirected to the eBook entry for the title you entered. Here you can either borrow the item immediately or place a hold which will then notify you via email when the eBook is available.

    Please note, to check out free legal eBooks from the online library, you will need a Provo City Library card. Library cards from other Utah libraries can also be used to check out eBooks from Utah’s Online Library, but will not give you access to Provo City Library’s collection.

    My Discoveries

    Through trial and error, I have discovered some quirks to be aware of with this search feature.

    Only OverDrive: There are other eBook collections out there including RBdigital which you also have access to with your Provo City Library card. However, Google search currently only works with OverDrive, so you will not see any results for other eBook collections.

    No audiobooks: Even though Utah’s Online Library also offers free legal audiobooks to borrow and listen to, Google’s search feature only works for eBooks. No results will come up if there is an audiobook but no eBook.

    Books made for the silver screen: Books made into movies or TV series don’t always return results. For example, I tried searching for Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library which is a movie and a book. The title does not return any free eBooks even though the book is available in Utah’s Online Library collection. However, a search for the second book in the series, Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Race, which does not have a movie version, does come up.

    I have discovered that sometimes, adding “book” to the end of the title will help return the correct results, but not always.

    Correct titles: You know how Google is great for finding something even if you can’t quite remember what it’s called? Well that doesn’t work so well when finding eBooks. I tried experimenting with variations on book titles with poor results. For example, I search for Mistborn but no eBooks came up. However, when I changed my search to Mistborn: The Final Empire, then it came up.Tip: if you can’t remember the title, search for it on Google. After finding the correct title, perform a new search.

    Vague titles: Titles that are not specific enough to return good results can also be problematic. For example, Hunted. Just entering “hunted” in the search box will not return any eBook results. However, try adding “book” to the end of the title or the author’s name and you will have far better luck.

    My Conclusions

    While this is a handy new, automatic feature built into Google, the results are still a little sporadic. Readers that frequently look for books by searching Google will find this a useful tool. However, if you really want to know if an eBook is available, I would recommend directly searching Utah’s Online Library (https://utahsonlinelibrary.overdrive.com/). For me, I think this is a great new feature for browsing and chancing across interesting books, but it is less useful when I am looking for something specific.

  • SR 2017 FB

     

    The 2017 Summer Reading Program’s theme is “Build a Better World.” As we met and planned the program, we realized there are many different ways to build a better world. Human interaction that fosters connection is one of the smallest yet most important things we can do. Opportunities for connection with others exist all around us—at work, in our neighborhoods, even standing in the checkout line. Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education explains that even the simple act of smiling activates compassion, a powerhouse emotion that can actually help ease tension and foster emotional connection for those we interact with. Connecting with others has helped our species survive—and may well help us make it in the future.

    With this in mind, we created Summer Reading Challenges that would help encourage us to take these small steps towards connection such as smile at 10 people in one day or sincerely say thank you. Here are some of the responses we received that have warmed our hearts.

    “All the people I smiled at smiled back! It helped my attitude be happier as well.”

    “By smiling at others I was forced to look up instead of just listening to music and walking with my head down. It gave me the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine more and to see the happy look on people's faces when I smiled at them.”

    “As I thanked people, it made me realize how awesome they are and how grateful I am for them.”

    “I contacted my Cosmetology teacher and told her that I appreciated all of the hard work that she has done for me in helping me earn a degree only five months after graduating high school.”

    “I left a note for my daughter to tell her that she is amazing and I love her.”

    “I know from experience that when someone is really grateful for something you did for them, it makes you happy that you could make them happy. I hope that by thanking people I let them know how much I appreciate them and everything they do for me.”

    “I wrote handwritten thank you cards for my recent birthday gifts. I think it's nice to send something tangible to those who think of you. I know I love getting real mail, so I hope they do, too.”

    “Whenever you smile at someone and they smile back you always feel happier.  I love turning a frown into a smile. By smiling, I am happier.”

    These are just a few of the hundreds of responses we have received, and we have truly loved reading all responses from our summer readers to see how dedicated they are to building a better world.

  •  SR 2017 FB

    At Provo City Library our 2017 Summer Reading theme is “Build a Better World." Many people might think the world can only be changed by grand gestures or by people in positions of power, but we all have the power to profoundly affect the world around us. You do this simply by how you choose to interact with your world and those in it. Being a good family member, neighbor, or community member can often have more impact because you have the greatest knowledge and influence in your own sphere.

    To make real changes in your world, you don’t have to take on everything at once. Start small and just take the first step. A small act of kindness creates a ripple effect that can carry from person to person, brightening many lives, and maybe those people will choose to pay it forward to someone else.

    For our Summer Reading Program, we wanted to help initiate this ripple effect by offering “Challenges” to help motivate people to take those first small steps to build a better world. Some of the Challenges include “Make Someone’s Day,” “Offer a Service to Someone,” or “Give a Thoughtful Compliment.”

    The responses we have received from these Summer Reading Challenges have been so heartening to our staff that we thought we would share a few here. Maybe it will spark you to look for ways to help others.

    “My neighbors are getting their kitchen redone so they can't cook anything, so my family and I invited them over and made them dinner.”

    “I saw an old man that is homeless, and I bought him a hot meal and gave him a comforter to sleep with.”

    “I made brownies and brought them over to a family member who is going through a hard time.”

    “There was this elementary school kid at the Dollar Tree. He bought two poster boards for $2.14. He only had $2.00. He was going to put one board back, but I gave him the $0.14, so he could get the two boards. I remember being a kid shopping in a store and not understanding taxes, so I was always short.”

    “I cleaned all of the living room and vacuumed it because we had visitors coming, and I knew that my mom wouldn't have enough time to do it.”

    “As a family, we weeded a neighbor’s flower bed.”

    “My sister and I took our friend out to get a treat at Yogurtland and we decided to pay for someone’s order. So we made a deal that the next person to walk into the room we would pay for them. An old man with his daughter and her son came into the store. I walked up to the cash register and explained that when they came to pay for their treat to use the money I handed her to pay for their order. I also told her to keep it a secret. So, when they came up to the front the man was reaching in his pocket to pay for the frozen yogurt and the lady told him that it had already been paid for. The old man was surprised and it made my day. Service is really awesome and I hope that I can have other experiences where I can serve others and get to see them smile after it.”

    One final note. Many studies have shown that helping others has a positive impact on your own life such as developing stronger relationships, having a more positive outlook in a world where we are bombarded daily with fear and anger, establishing a stronger sense of belonging, and feeling more gratitude in your life. Some people have even said it is the secret to happiness and a more fulfilled life.

  • SR 2017 FB 1

     The Summer Reading Program theme this year is “Build a Better World”. As librarians, we’re a little bit biased because we already know what an impact the many amazing programs, services, and resources we provide can have on our community and by extension the world. It’s getting the word out that has always been a little difficult for us.

    Since most of Provo City Library’s many great services can be found on our website, we created a Summer Reading challenge to browse the library website and discover something you didn’t know. As a result, we’ve been getting many fantastic and excited comments from our summer reading participants about cool things they had no idea the library offered. We thought we would share some of them here and maybe inspire you to discover something awesome too.

    “I didn’t know that the 4th floor is called “The Attic” and that it has an exhibit space that changes every couple of months. Right now the Little Builders Exhibit is in the space.”

    “I learned that the library has book club sets that can be checked out by book groups.”

    “I learned about the Teen Volunteer Board. I love the library and have always wanted to be a librarian or author when I grow up. This sounds like so much fun and I will for sure do it!”

    “I found the Provo Historic Tours App. I think we will try it out as a family this summer.  That looks like a fun activity to do together.”

    “I didn’t know there was an app called Bookmyne where I can browse and hold books, renew stuff, and manage my account. So cool!”

    “I didn't know you had career databases. Now I've got to check them out!”

    “That you have access to Academic Search Premier. Since I graduated school, I haven’t searched academic articles, since I didn't have a university ID. But now when I do research on my family history I know I gain access online again, without going to a university library.”

    “I learned that you have an online calendar that is packed with activities! I never knew so much went on at the library.”

    “I didn't know that you can get personalized reading recommendations according to your interests.  That's pretty cool...I'll be using that.”

    “I didn't realize the library website had such an extensive list of things to do in Provo and nearby cities. Good resource–wish I knew about it earlier.”

    “That I can register my one-year-old son for an early literacy program called 1000 Books Before Kindergarten.”

    Finally, there were good number of people astonished to learn of the many, many programs we offer. The comments we received looked something like this:

    “I didn’t know the library has…”

  • In late summer 2007, we began offering a new online service called Personalized Reading Recommendations. To get a personalized list of reading suggestions, you just fill out the online questionnaire with your reading preferences. Then a librarian sends you five suggestions based on your answers. 

    Ten years later we are still happily offering reading suggestions to anyone who requests them. 

    personalized recommendations 01

  • We are very excited about this one! Your Provo City Library card now provides you with free access to Lynda.com, a leading online platform for top-quality video-based tutorials. Access Lynda.com through our A-Z Resources list or by using this portal. What are you waiting for? Start learning!

    lynda 01

  • We've been dropping hints here and there, but now you can't miss them: Summer Reading time is almost here! Our Summer Reading Kickoff and Book Sale will be held June 4 from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. Each participant that registers for the Summer Reading Program will receive a voucher for a free book at the Book Sale! 

    Here are some numbers to get you excited about the program; these are pretty good, but we think we can do even better this year!

    summer reading 2015 01

  • We're about halfway through our annual Summer Reading Program, which means there's still time for you to sign up and start earning prizes! We have programs for all ages. 

    SR Halfway 2017 01

  • curved shelves

    “I’m looking for a book.”

    I’ve heard it hundreds of times, and my first thought is always, “Great! You’ve come to the right place.” Generally, this statement is followed by the title of a specific book. In addition to looking up specific titles for our patrons, we get many other questions about books. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions our librarians get asked on a near daily basis.

    Can you suggest a good book for me to read?

    This is a fundamental library service. There’s even an official term for it called Readers’ Advisory which involves asking questions about the types of books the reader has enjoyed in the past and listening for certain characteristics described by the reader. This can be quite a daunting task because our librarians really, really want to make sure they recommend books readers will love. Fortunately, beyond our personal reading expertise, we also have several resources available to help us find that next great book to read.

    Library Booklists
    Our booklists suggest books grouped by genre, theme, reading level, time period, award winners, etc.

    Librarian Review Blogs:
    Teen & Adult Book reviews
    Children’s Book Reviews 
    These blogs feature reviews of what our librarians are reading and will be tagged if it’s astaff pick, anaudio pick, or aclean read.

    Author Read-Alikes
    This resource can help you find a book based on an author that you already know and love. We add new authors a few times a year.

    Personalized Reading Recommendation Service 
    Fill out the online questionnaire telling us a few things about the books you like to read and one of our librarians will tailor a list of books just for you!

    NoveList Plus 
    The librarian’s secret weapon. NoveList is an extensive database of fiction and nonfiction for adults, teens, and children offering reviews of books, multiple ways to search for books, read-alike suggestions by author, title, and genre, information about book awards, discussion guides for book clubs, book talks, and feature articles. It’s kind of awesome!

    How can I find a book I read years ago?

    Remember the cover but not the title? Maybe you remember a few details, but you’ve tried searching online with no luck. Librarians to the rescue!

    First, librarians have vast amounts of experience searching for books. Even if we use the exact words you've tried searching for, we know what to look for. We may ask to get back to you, but 99% of the time, we’re going to find that book for you.

    Second, as someone describes the book out loud, they often remember more details. Just talking about the book with a librarian has helped people find books they were looking for.

    You also might like to know that NoveList Plus allows you to describe a book in the search box. Then a list of results with the same keywords is returned.

    What’s the next book in this series?

    Is it so hard for authors and publishers to list this information? Yes, apparently it is. Fortunately, your librarians have put a lot of effort into tracking this information for you. We have put together a great resource that lists all book series owned by the library.

    The Book Series Order section of our website can be found by browsing under “Books & Media” in the drop-down menu at the top of every page. Once there, you can browse a list of authors organized alphabetically, or you can search for a specific series by typing in the author or title of the series or a title of a book in the series.

    Do you have eBooks?

    Yes, we do! Provo City Library provides immediate access to thousands of best-selling eBooks and audiobooks. Free access is provided for all Provo City Library card holders in good standing.

    OverDrive (eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, and some videos)
    OneClickdigital (audiobooks and some eBooks)
    Learning Express Library (eBook study manuals)
    World Book (educational eBooks mostly for children)

    Can I suggest a book be purchased by the Library?

    Yes, please! We value suggestions from our patrons. You can suggest a book be purchased by filling out the Purchase Suggestion Form. Please read through the instructions to ensure we can best serve your needs. Once you have made a suggestion a librarian will assess the request and let you know if we decide to acquire the item or not.

    Do you have any books for sale?

    Yes! The Used Book Store is located across from the Circulation Help Desk. Everything sells for $1.00-2.00. There are also great sales each month. The third week of each month, everything is 50% off and the last week you can fill a bag for $5.00.

    We also hold periodic book sales in our Ballroom. Our next big book sale will be Saturday, June 3rd.

    Have other book related questions or really any questions at all? Feel free to call, 801-852- 6661, come into the library, or click on the “Ask a Librarian” tab on the right side of the screen! We would be happy to answer your questions.

  • fandom 1

     Fandom. Nearly all of us belong to at least one. Think about that one TV show, band, book series, or game that you connected with so deeply, that at times, it’s all you could think or talk about. It’s feeling connected to a community of people who have all experienced the same thrill and passion as you. And waiting for the next release...AGONY!

    Here are five Young Adult novels that celebrate what it’s like to be part of a fandom. The ultimate ode to all things geek.

    FangirlFANGIRL 
    Rainbow Rowell
    (2013)

    This charming novel tells the story of  painfully shy Cath, who prefers the fantasy world of fanfiction to reality. Cath has been writing fanfiction about Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-like wizard who battles vampires and the Humdrum, a creature determined to rid the world of magic. She has thousands of online followers, but as Cath begins her first year of college, expecting to survive by rooming with her outgoing twin sister, Wren, everything starts to fall apart.

     

     

    The Geeks Guide to Unrequited LoveTHE GEEK’S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE 
    Sarvenaz Tash
    (2016)

    Graham and Roxana have been friends for eight years, growing closer through their mutual love of comic books and all things geek. But what Roxy doesn’t know is that Graham has had a hopeless crush on her for years. So when he learns that the creator of their favorite comic will be at this year’s New York Comic Con, Graham knows they have to go, and that it’s the perfect opportunity to confess his unrequited love. But once Comic Con actually starts, nothing goes according to plan, and Graham is left struggling to make the epic moment happen.

     

    GeekerellaGEEKERELLA 
    Ashley Poston
    (2017)

    In this fandom version of the fairy tale Cinderella, Elle Wittimer is a devoted fan of the classic sci-fi TV series Starfield. When Elle finds out that ExcelsiCon is hosting a Starfield cosplay contest in honor of the new movie adaptation, she jumps at the chance, but knows her evil step-family will try to prevent her from attending the ball. When Darien Freeman is cast as the new Prince of Carmindor, Elle thinks it’s a terrible choice. She vents her frustration with the casting on her fan blog and receives unprecedented readership. So when Elle and Darien’s paths cross at the ExcelsiCon ball, it’s not so clear if Elle will get her happily ever after.

     

    The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is YouTHE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU
    Lily Anderson
    (2016)

    In this nerdy take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, Trixie Watson has considered Ben West her arch-nemesis since first grade at Messina Academy for the Gifted, a school for geniuses. In their senior year, Trixie is determined to finally surpass Ben in the class standings. But Trixie and Ben’s respective best friends are exhausted with the verbal sparring and plot to help them form a friendship or maybe more based on their mutual love of comics and science fiction. So when Trixie’s friend gets expelled for cheating, they each have to choose who to believe.

     

    All The FeelsALL THE FEELS 
    Danika Stone
    (2016)

    Ultimate fan Liv has been obsessed with the sci-fi movie Starveil, for years. So, when the main character, Spartan, is unexpectedly killed off in the final movie, Liv and the rest of the fandom can’t accept it. After trying to get over it and failing, she decides that Spartan’s death should be struck from the official canon of the films. With help from her best friend, Xander, a Steampunk-loving aspiring actor, they begin a campaign called #SpartanSurvived.

     

     

  • gaslamp

    If you enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and intrigue, you may be unaware but you’re likely a Gaslamp Fantasy fan, also known as Gaslight Fantasy (but not to be confused with “gaslighting” which means to purposefully alter a person’s surroundings to make said person believe they are going crazy). Gaslamp Fantasy instead refers to stories that take place in Britain (or its former colonies) during the Regency, Victorian, or Edwardian time periods (just as gas lamp posts were being introduced to the seedy streets of London). Though similar to its Science Fiction cousin, Steampunk, Gaslamp lacks the science and machinery elements and has a firmer connection to a real time and place.

    Why would you want to read a Gaslamp Fantasy? Britain in the early 19th century combines well with fantasy elements as people still clung to their traditional beliefs at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. By using a historical setting, Gaslamp Fantasy also engenders a sense of emotional nostalgia. Add into that, witty dialogue, spirited heroes and heroines, and a bit of intrigue, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a book you can’t put down.

    So without further ado, here are some of my favorite Gaslamp Fantasy novels.

    majestysdragonHIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON
    by Naomi Novik
    (2006)

    Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this is the delightful story of stuffy yet true-hearted British Naval Captain, Will Laurence and precocious Temeraire, the dragon. While patrolling the seas, Captain Laurence and his crew take over a French frigate on its way back from the Orient and discover in the cargo an unhatched dragon egg. However, before the ship can make it back to land, the dragon hatches. Dragons must agree to be harnessed shortly after hatching or they become feral beasts. So when Temeraire agrees to take the harness from Laurence it means that he must give up the command of his ship and join His Majesty’s Aerial Corps to become the dragon’s aviator.

     

    sorcerercrownSORCERER TO THE CROWN
    by Zen Cho
    (2015)

    Set in the Regency Era and told from two characters’ perspectives, the book begins with Zacharias Wythe, a freed slave who has managed to become England’s Sorcerer Royal where he stands as Britain’s most influential magician. However, a national shortage of magic, tense relations with other magical world leaders, racial prejudice, and rumors that Zacharias murdered the previous Sorcerer Royal combine to endanger his position. The novel then switches to the perspective of Prunella Gentleman, the daughter of an English magician and an unknown Indian woman. She lives at a school where well-bred young ladies learn to subdue their magical abilities. Convention forbids these “gentlewitches” from practicing magic, as their weak frames could never withstand sustained magical effort. When Zacharias visits the school and witnesses both Prunella’s immense talent and the dangerous methods of suppression used there, he begins to question the longstanding ban.

     

    jonathanstrangeJONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL
    by Susanna Clarke
    (2004)

    Practicing English magicians have all but disappeared as the 19th century begins to unfold. Replacing practicing magicians are an aristocratic breed of theoretical magicians who dedicate their lives to studying magic but would never dream of sullying their family names by actually participating in a spell. Unbeknownst to these magicians, one lone man, Mr. Norrell, has decided to serve his country by bringing magic back to England. He is soon joined by Jonathan Strange, a young man who seems to have a natural gift for magic. Together, these two magicians set events in motion that could spell doom to the entire British Empire.

     

    shadesmilkandhoneySHADES OF MILK AND HONEY
    by Mary Robinette Kowal
    (2010)

    Jane and Melody are two sisters hoping to make advantageous marriages. A notable young lady in Regency England must not only be beautiful and carry herself with deportment but be accomplished in music, art, and magic by being able to weave the subtlest of glamours into her home and personage. It must not be anything too garish, just simple things like making the fire glow a little brighter or swaying trees in a painting. So how do two sisters find advantageous matches when Jane has all the talent and Melody has all the beauty?

     

     

    queenvictoriaQUEEN VICTORIA’S BOOK OF SPELLS
    edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling
    (2013)

    Not ready to take the full plunge into the Gaslamp Fantasy sub-genre? Check out this anthology of short stories to explore a wide range of settings, characters, and themes by both newcomers and experts in the Gaslamp Fantasy realm.

  • russian folk

    There’s a reason why folktales today remain popular even though the oral storytelling traditions of the past have faded. Folktales have enchanted people for centuries and they help us understand human nature and explain our world.

    Russian and Slavic mythology contain a rich vein of folktales with their dark and often tragic stories of Baba Yaga, Father Frost, Vasilisa the Beautiful, Rusalka, and more. Recently, many of these stories are being explored and made into modern day adaptations, which are told from new angles or set during historical, real-world events such as the Bolshevik Revolution or the Soviet Union.

    Here are five of my favorite recent Russian or Slavic inspired folktales.

    11.10 The Bear and the NightingaleTHE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE 
    By Katherine Arden
    (2016)

    For generations, the noble Vladimirovich family has lived a difficult but peaceful life on the edge of a Russian forest. The family and the local villagers praise God in church on Sunday and leave offerings for the magical household who watch over their homes and stables throughout the week. Young Vasilisa Vladimirova has a peculiar gift, however. She can see and talk with these friendly spirits. When her new, fiercely devout stepmother arrives shortly after a captivating young priest, they demand that the villagers stop their idol worship and abandon their traditional practices. But as a particularly harsh winter sets in and the village nears starvation, Vasya knows she must ignore the wishes of father, stepmother, and priest to embrace her own power and seek the help of creatures from deepest folklore to help in her fight against the growing strength of the Bear.

    11.10 UprootedUPROOTED 
    By Naomi Novik
    (2015)

    A mysterious wizard known as the Dragon selects a young woman from a rural village near his tower every 10 years as payment for protecting the region from the malevolent influence of the evil Wood. Agnieszka, always muddy and disheveled, never thinks that she will be chosen, but when she is selected to serve the Dragon, she soon discovers she has a rare and powerful talent for magic. As Agnieszka's magic grows, her journey sends her on a deadly quest where she will experience the terrible intrigue of the royal court, a true and unbreakable friendship, and even a little romance.

     

    11.9 The Crowns GameTHE CROWN’S GAME 
    By Evelyn Skye
    (2016)

    In 1825 Russia, with unrest among the Kazakhs and the Ottoman Empire pressing from the South, the Tsar needs more help than his army and advisors can provide. Though few still believe in magic, Russia still has the ability to call an Imperial Enchanter. The problem is there are currently two enchanters, Vika Andreyevna who has been training her entire life to become Imperial Enchanter and Nikolai Karimov, best friend to the Tsarevich, Pasha, but who does not know of Nikolai’s ability. Because their powers come from the same source, only one can become Imperial Enchanter and wield this incredible power. To decide who will become Imperial Enchanter, the Tsar sets in motion the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill where each enchanter must show his or her inventiveness and strength. The victor will be declared the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. For the loser—instant death.

    11.10 Vassa in the NightVASSA IN THE NIGHT
    By Sarah Porter
    (2016)

    Set in a darkly magical version of a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, Vassa’s mother is dead and father gone. She lives with her uncaring stepmother and two stepsisters. In Vassa's neighborhood, magic is to be avoided and the nights have mysteriously started lengthening. One night after all their lightbulbs burn out, Vassa is sent by her stepsister to buy more. Baba Yaga, known as Babs, owns a local convenience store known for its practice of beheading shoplifting customers. So when Babs accuses Vassa of stealing, Vassa makes a deal to work as an indentured servant for three nights. During her time in the shop, Vassa begins to suspect that Babs’s magic may be connected to the growing imbalance between day and night affecting the city.

    11.10 Shadow and BoneSHADOW AND BONE 
    By Leigh Bardugo
    (2012)

    Alina and Mal were orphans, raised together after their parents died in the constant border wars in Ravka. Now they are in the army where Mal is an expert tracker and Alina a mediocre mapmaker. Their once great friendship isn't what it used to be. Their land is surrounded by enemies and divided by the Shadow Fold, a mysterious, magical darkness that seethes with flesh-eating monsters known as volcra. When a perilous mission takes them into the Shadow Fold, Alina manifests a powerful and rare ability to summon light that sets their whole world spinning and catches the attention of the Darkling, the head of the magical Grisha. Although Alina refuses to believe she has any power, she is taken to Os Alta, the capital, to learn to use her special gift. As her distance from Mal grows quite literally, she finds herself pulled into a more complex situation than she ever expected and must find if the light within her is strong enough to combat all the powers of darkness.

  • yaromance

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a fully grown woman who loves a good Young Adult (YA) Contemporary Romance. Let me first explain what I mean by this genre. These are books set in contemporary times, but can include the recent past such as ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell who set her novel in 1986 (and, by the way, is fantastic). FYI: typically a novel is considered historical fiction if set 50 years or longer in the past. YA Contemporary Romance must also have a romantic relationship at its core. That’s the bit I especially like. There is an inherent excitement to the idea of falling in love for the first time that draws me in again and again, even if it’s easy to guess the plot sometimes. I also enjoy a happy ending but don’t require one. It’s all the swoony romantic bits in the middle that I like best where the cute boy doesn’t go for the popular, pretty girl but instead goes for the quirky one that lives next door.

    To be fair, YA Contemporary Romance can contain melancholy or emotional elements where teens must deal with real issues such as depression or the death of a loved one. These elements often enhance the story; making it bittersweet, which can be rewarding in its own way.

    So without further ado, here are my recent five favorite YA Contemporary Romances.  

    to all the boysTO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE
    by Jenny Han
    (2014)

    Lara Jean isn’t sure she’s ready for her sister, Margot, to move to Scotland for college.  But life becomes even more complicated when someone finds and mails her stash of secret, never-to-be-read letters addressed to all the boys she’s liked in the past.  One letter is sent to Josh, her next door neighbor who Margot broke up with just before moving away. When Josh confronts her, Lara Jean is desperate to convince him that she’s over her crush even if she’s not completely sure herself. Another letter is sent to Peter, a popular Lacrosse player at school. Peter suggests that Lara Jean pose as his new girlfriend to make his ex-girlfriend jealous and to help her convince Josh that she’s over him.

    geography of you and meTHE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME
    by Jennifer E. Smith
    (2014)

    Lucy Patterson and Owen Buckly meet by chance when they are trapped in their New York apartment building’s elevator during a massive power outage. When the electricity returns, so do real-life complications. Owen and his father, devastated by his mother’s recent death, decide to drive west for a fresh start. Meanwhile, Lucy moves to Scotland for her father’s work.  Separated geographically, it is their emotional connection that carries each of them through a life-changing year. This book centers on the leaps of faith that love demands.

    tell me three thingsTELL ME THREE THINGS
    by Julie Buxbaum
    (2016)

    After losing her mother, gaining a stepmother and moving cross-country, Jessie is feeling lost. During her first week in Los Angeles, she receives an email from an anonymous fellow student calling himself Somebody/Nobody (SN), offering advice dodging the pitfalls of her new prep school. After several weeks of relying on SN, Jessie wants to meet him. But will reality live up to her idea of Somebody/Nobody? This novel is sort of like YOU’VE GOT MAIL for teenagers.

    all the bright placesALL THE BRIGHT PLACES
    by Jennifer Niven
    (2015)

    An exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story, this novel is told from the perspectives of both Theodore Finch and Violet Markey.  The two meet unexpectedly on the ledge of the school bell tower where they’re both contemplating suicide. Though both troubled, they start a beautiful and unusual friendship. On a school project to experience roadside attractions in the state of Indiana, the two develop a close bond that others don’t understand as their bond begins to help heal one another. But as Violet’s world expands, Finch’s begins to shrink.

    everything everythingEVERYTHING, EVERYTHING
    by Nicola Yoon
    (2015)

    Ever since she was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, or “bubble baby” disease, 18-year-old Madeline Whittier hasn’t been able to leave her house. Quite literally allergic to everything, she watches the world pass her by. When Olly moves in next door, all of this changes. With Carla, her nurse, as her ally, Maddy defies her mother by allowing Olly into her house and her heart, putting her very life at risk. This is a humorously engaging story of a girl who has to figure out how to live life and love despite her circumstances.