Fantasy Forest

I just inhaled Deborah Harkness’s A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. I was so carried away by the story that I read this brick of a book in a couple of days.

Diana Bishop comes from a long lineage of witches, but the mysterious death of her parents causes her to shut her magic away and live like a human. While working in Oxford University as a historian, Diana uncovers an old book that clearly has a spell on it. Against her better judgement she opens the book and finds that it is actually two books, one an alchemical book and one with hidden writing.

Her finding of the book brings vampire Matthew Clairmont into her life. At first Matthew thinks he is protecting Diana, but soon their feelings becoming romantically entangled. But it is against the laws of both witches and vampires to fall in love with another creature, and soon forces more powerful than Diana has ever experienced try to keep her away from Matthew. But little do these shadowy forces know Diana has more power than they ever thought possible and Matthew never lets go when he falls in love.

This is a great bite-your-hand-forget-to-breathe love story. It moved quickly and the writing was excellent. It’s a fabulous fantasy with elegant world building and a unique magic system. I usually shy away from supernatural romance and I am not much into vampire stories, but Matthew Clairmont stole my heart completely. If you like the sound of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, you also might like the following books.

1.29 ThornyholdTHORNYHOLD
By Mary Stewart
(1988)

Gilly’s childhood is bleak. The only bright spots are when her godmother Geillis comes to visit. When Geillis dies and leaves Gilly her beautiful and mysterious cottage, Thornyhold, Gilly is surprised to find that the village thought Geillis was a witch and that they now assume Gilly will fill her place as the resident wise-woman.

 

1.29 The Bear and the NightingaleTHE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE
By Katherine Arden
(2017)

A mysterious stranger with piercing blue eyes gives new-father Pytor a precious jewel intended for his young daughter. Pytor fears the jewel and hides it away. The baby girl, Vasya, grows up with a wild and unbiddable will. When her village is in danger, it is indomitable Vasya who sets out, with the help of the jewel, to save her family and friends.  

 

1.29 The Thinking Womans Guide to Real MagicTHE THINKING WOMAN’S GUIDE TO REAL MAGIC
By Emily Croy Barker
(2013)

Nora Fischer figures that things just can’t get much worse. She’s been dumped by her boyfriend, denied by her dissertation committee, and lives a pretty depressing life. But while wandering in the woods one day, she strays from the path and discovers a whole other world of magic, danger, and a possible job/way home. But first she has to rescue her potential magician boss.   

 

1.29 Hannah GreenHANNAH GREEN AND HER UNFEASIBLY MUNDANE EXISTENCE
By Michael Marshall Smith
(2018)

Hannah Green has cornered the market when it comes to the mundane. However (and that is a big however), she will soon be faced with the truth that mushrooms can talk, there is magic in the world, and there is an ancient evil that must be faced. But who will face it? Hannah Green.  

 

1.29 Moon CalledMOON CALLED
By Patricia Briggs
(2006)

Mercy Thompson runs one of the best one-woman mechanic shops in the Tri-cities area. She also hides a dark past. She’s a shapeshifter who was raised by werewolves, but she was driven from the pack. Now she tries to live like a human. But her two worlds start to collide when she takes in a half-starved runaway.

 

Juvenile Fiction That Adults Might Like Too

It’s not uncommon for adults to be hesitant to read books written for a younger audience. Whether it’s because these books are often written about the problems that only children face, such as school, or because as adults we’re convinced that we’re not supposed to read books written for children, the fact is, a lot of readers are missing out on awesome books simply because they’re not in the adult section. I’ve actually found that quite a few books in the juvenile fiction section have themes and lessons that are important for all ages, or are just written so well that they deserve to be seen by as many eyes as possible. It might be surprising, but there’s a lot we can learn from books written for children.  

1.22 The PenderwicksTHE PENDERWICKS: A SUMMER TALE OF FOUR SISTERS, TWO RABBITS, AND A VERY INTERESTING BOY
By Jeanne Birdsall
(2017)

For readers who love a good foray into classic children’s literature, this book might be a good choice. While THE PENDERWICKS isn’t quite old enough to be considered a classic, it has the feel of a book written by Louisa May Alcott, and should thus satisfy that cozy place in any reader’s heart. It’s got family, hijinks, and a whole lot of heart.  

 

1.22 Wolf HollowWOLF HOLLOW
By Lauren Wolk
(2016)

WOLF HOLLOW, which has been compared to Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is not a book for the faint of heart. Serious topics, including war, bullying, and prejudice are tackled in this reflective novel. For people who are worried that children’s fiction will be a little bit too light, this might be a good choice.  

 

1.22 The Inquisitors TaleTHE INQUISITOR’S TALE, OR THE THREE MAGICAL CHILDREN AND THEIR HOLY DOG
By Adam Gidwitz
(2016)

History buffs, especially those of you who enjoy medieval history, might want to peruse THE INQUISITOR’s TALE. Gidwitz takes on a story of magic, friendship, and learning, and manages to fill it to the brim with his research into medieval times, meaning even adults will likely learn something new while reading this one.  

 

1.22 The GiverTHE GIVER
By Lois Lowry
(1993)

If you’re longing for something that’s heavy on social commentary, look no further than THE GIVER. Lowry crafts a world that she manages to stay surprisingly neutral about, offering readers a frank portrayal of a supposed utopia. The ambiguous way that she writes the moral dilemmas makes this a book ideal for discussion and debate, and a great choice for a book club.

 

 microhistory

Despite being a lifetime book lover and professional librarian, I just recently discovered my favorite book genre, microhistories.

Microhistories give the reader what I call an “ant’s-eye view,” or in other words, a view of something from the ground up. I love to dive deep into one specific topic and explore every nook and cranny history has to offer.

It’s so refreshing to learn about a topic with a more focused perspective. Luckily for me the Provo Library offers plenty of options when it comes to microhistories. If you need a place to start, the library has you covered. Listed below are some of my favorite microhistory reads.

1.24 The Big OysterTHE BIG OYSTER: HISTORY ON THE HALF SHELL
By Mark Kurlansky
(2006)

In my eyes, Mark Kurlansky is the king of microhistory. If you’re new to the microhistory genre, you can’t go wrong with any books by Mark Kurlanksy, but I highly recommend starting with this book. Kurlansky gives the readers a history lesson on The Big Apple (New York) when it was the Big Oyster, and how this salt-water bivalve influenced its economy, culture, and food scene.

 

1.24 The Disappearing SpoonTHE DISAPPEARING SPOON
By Sam Kean
(2011)

Imagine chemistry class spun into a series of delightful short stories and you’ve got a fun, new way to learn about the periodic table. You’ll walk away from this read feeling like a genius and wondering why it took you so long to find chemistry funny.

 

1.24 StiffSTIFF
By Mary Roach
(2004)

Talk about digging deep! This book explores the many uses of human cadavers. What role do cadavers play in space exploration? You’ll have to read the book to find out. WARNING: If you’re squeamish, you may have a hard time getting through this one (but please try, I promise its worth it!).

 

1.24 Just My TypeJUST MY TYPE
By Simon Garfield
(2010)

Where do fonts come from? This book answers that question along with many other questions you might not even know you had about fonts. You’ll learn about the typographers behind the typefaces and find yourself thinking twice about the font you choose for your next school assignment (that is, if your teacher hasn’t assigned Times New Roman 12 pt.).

 

1.24 BananaBANANA
By Dan Koeppel
(2007)

There’s so much more to the banana than meets the eye. Split ways with any preconceived notions of your favorite yellow fruit and learn about origin of the banana. The combination of science, history, and politics makes for an informative and entertaining read. Quite appealing, right?

 

mock caldecott 01 

We have a tradition here at the Provo City Library to do a Mock Caldecott—both to help us understand the process that the real Caldecott committee goes through to pick "the most distinguished book in children’s literature," and to help us get to know and love the picture books that came out in the past year. The Caldecott is awarded specifically to illustrators of children's books, and only American illustrators are eligible (check out a few of our recent favorites from international illustrators here).

This year our group of 26 children’s book friends picked one winner and four honor books.

Winner:

1.22 Bear Came AlongBEAR CAME ALONG
Written by Richard T. Morris
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
(2019)

This book is about a bear that goes on a journey down a river. The story is fun, but the illustrations were what made the book for our Mock Caldecott group. First of all, we loved the color. You may notice that the bear at first is not even fully colored. It is only when he goes to the river that he becomes the rich brown bear that is depicted in the rest of the book. Plus, if there are also other details that show that the closer to the river something is, the more color there is on that thing. The use of color tells as much of a story as does the actual story.

We also loved the use of line and motion for the book. The way that the river jogs through the pages is brilliantly done and it gets us to want to turn the page to see what is happening next. Speaking of page turns, the one where readers know that a waterfall is coming is pure perspective brilliance.

Yeah, we really liked this book. 

 

Honor Books (in alphabetical order by title):

1.22 Field Trip to the MoonFIELD TRIP TO THE MOON
Written and illustrated by John Hare
(2019)

In this story a young astronaut goes on a field trip (on a spaceship school bus) to the moon. However, once there, the moon-visitor gets distracted and starts coloring with crayons on a notepad. There is so much to draw that soon the spaceship school bus leaves, stranding the young cosmonaut. He ends up meeting a group of aliens who are enthralled with the box of crayons he uses for art. This wordless picture book is full of brilliant colors that pop against black, grey, and white backgrounds. 

 

1.22 Fry BreadFRY BREAD: A NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILY STORY
Written by Kevin Noble Maillard
Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
(2019)

This picture book tells the story of a Native American family that spends time together making fry bread. The illustrations are beautiful. We loved the vivid expressions on the characters' faces, the diversity of the family (they don’t all look like the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans, which is a breath of fresh air), and the extra details that add so much to each illustration. Plus, for added happiness there is a recipe in the back! 

 

1.22 Rabbit and the MotorbikeRABBIT AND THE MOTORBIKE
Written by Kate Hoefler
Illustrated by Sarah Jacoby
(2019)

This story is about Rabbit who always stays close to home, prefering to listen to his friend Dog's stories of adventure on a motorbike. But one day, Dog is gone and leaves his motorbike to Rabbit. Our group loved the details and the lines of motion in this story. We especially loved the full-page spreads that showed the emotions connected to all of Rabbit’s feelings and adventures. 

 

1.22 A Stone Sat StillA STONE SAT STILL
Written and Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
(2019)

Stone doesn’t go very far—and yet there is so much that happens. From the various creatures that come and use the stone to all the light and dark moments there is a lot that happens in one small place. Our group loved how the illustrations depicted so much—each illustration has a unique feeling that matches the various moments for the stone. These are illustrations that beg to be looked at multiple times so that you can see all of the things hidden in the pictures.

 

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