• fanfiction

    “It was the muffled groan that woke him, in the thin light before dawn.

    Enemies? Surrounded? Ambush?

    Zuko breathed in silently, deeply, ready to unleash a deadly surprise on anyone who might have succeeded in sneaking up on them-

    No one. The Earth Kingdom night was quiet. Just their bare camp out of sight of the road, the annoyingly cheerful chirps of birds, the odd grassy smell of air with no coal smoke or salt in it…

    And another sleepy grumble of complaint from Uncle’s bedroll.”

    So begins Embers, the insanely popular Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfiction by Vathara. The completed work is the length of the entire Harry Potter series put together, and it has more than 8,000 reviews on That’s more reviews than some published books have on Goodreads. Clearly, fanfiction is out there. People are writing it, people are reading it. But what is fanfiction, and why is it so popular?

    We all love our favorite books, TV shows, and movies. Sometimes you finish the season or turn the final page, and it just isn’t enough. You want more. You want to know if the main character and the leading lady ever get together. You want more deets on that side character who seemed pretty cool. You want to hear what happened before or after the main action of the story. Or you wonder what it would have been like if things had turned out differently. What if John and Sherlock met during the zombie apocalypse? What if the Avengers went to high school together? What if, like in Embers, Iroh talked Zuko out of stealing that ostrich horse and the two never split up?

    The desire to continue or change our favorite stories is not a new thing, nor is it exclusive to writers on the internet. Since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, dozens of writers have tried their hand at writing new Sherlock Holmes stories. Wide Sargasso Sea, a critically acclaimed piece of post-colonial literature, is a direct spin-off of Jane Eyre. James Joyce’s Ulysses was intended as a modern, Dublin-based retelling of The Odyssey. I mean, even The Lion King is just Hamlet with animals. Writers have always referenced, reinterpreted, and recycled stories from the past, adding their own bit to something that came before. What makes fanfiction any different?

    Well, the only issue I know of is copyright. Many of the writers I mentioned above wrote before the modern conception of copyright law, and those who wrote later changed names or settings to avoid infringement. Fanfiction writers keep names, places, and whatever else they want from their source material. Because of that, fanfiction can’t be published or sold in any way. Remember how Fifty Shades of Gray started out as a Twilight fanfiction? Well, E.L. James had to do some significant reworking (including changing Bella and Edward’s names) before that could happen. Instead, writers post to free sites like and include disclaimers stating that they do not own the characters.

    Because fanfiction cannot be published for copyright reasons, it sometimes gets the stigma of being just plain unpublishable. Many people view fanfiction as complete trash, filled with bad writing and excessive eroticism. While that stuff certainly does exist, it's important not to assume that the genre itself requires those things. By far the majority of fanfiction would be considered PG-13 or less; E.L. James actually removed Fifty Shades of Grey because it was too erotic for most fanfiction sites. The writing quality on most sites varies wildly, from young beginners to experts at the craft and everything in between. The key is just to sift for exactly what you’re looking for, because I promise it’s out there.

    Reading fanfiction can scratch an itch to spend time with your favorite characters for sure, but so can writing it. Writing fanfiction can be a healthy way to interact with your passions and become a creator, not just a consumer. Not only can it be a great creative outlet, fanfiction also provides a supportive community of people who will read what you write and give you feedback. Many writers like Marissa Meyer have said it helped them hone their craft.

    So go! Give it a try! Write something. Read something. This month at the library we are hosting a Teen Fanfiction Contest, so maybe that will be your excuse to put pen to paper. If you’re ready to read some fics, here’s a handy guide to get you started. Remember that some sites are moderated for quality and some are not. Ask your friends for recommendations and get familiar with the search filters on whatever site you use. Either way, good luck!

    Popular Sites:

    A brief glossary of fanfiction terms and acronyms:

    Fic/fanfic = fanfiction

    One-shot = a story with only one installment

    “x” as in “HarryxHermione” = A romantic pairing included in the fanfiction

    “/” or “slash” = A homosexual pairing

    AU = Alternate Universe, aka settings or events that vary quite a bit from canon

    Mary Sue = An author self-insert, aka a character obviously added to represent the author

    OOC = Out of character

    OTP = One True Pairing, aka a romantic couple that the author feels strongly about

    Ship = Can be used for “relationship” or as a verb, “To support a relationship,” aka “I ship Bella and Jacob”

    Cross-over = A fanfiction that includes characters or settings from multiple different sources

    Canon = The original source material that a fanfiction is drawing from

  •  DC


    Like superheroes? Enjoyed the Marvel movies or the DARK KNIGHT trilogy? Have The Flash queued up on Netflix? Then I have some big news for you. DC—one of the big two comic companies and home of Superman and the Justice League—is about to change everything. Though they keep saying that it’s not a reboot, DC is going through a renaissance and they’re calling it (appropriately) “Rebirth.”

    Those familiar with comics know that only five years ago DC DID have a reboot. They pared down their myriad titles to a mere half a hundred, started them all over at #1, and called it “The New 52.” More than just the number changed; instead of continuing any of the existing storylines, DC tried for a complete reset, wiping away all the alternate universes, the time travel, and the deaths and restoring all the heroes to their Silver Age prime. Essentially they dropped all the “baggage” and tried to create a simpler, grittier timeline to attract new readers.

    While this theoretically sounds like a good idea, it didn’t work. To start with, company politics resulted in bad author-series pairings. Obscure titles like SWAMP THING were foisted onto award winning writers and artists, while JUSTICE LEAGUE languished in the hands of newcomers. More vitally, however, DC discovered that when you tear away all the history of a character—their losses, their triumphs, their friendships and rivalries—you tear away most of their personality as well. The New 52 superheroes felt bland, dated, and pointlessly gritty. Coming from a girl whose favorite comic writer is Alan Moore, I can say that there’s definitely a time and a place for grit. But there’s got to be something deep and powerful to back it up. When the Joker beat Robin to death with a crowbar in THE KILLING JOKE, there was a REASON for Batman to be dark, violent and brooding. When that history was wiped away by New 52, Batman just seemed melodramatic.

    That’s not to say it was all bad. I personally loved New 52’s AQUAMAN, and WONDER WOMAN was a fortuitous mix of creative art and good writing. But the good stuff wasn’t enough. Not only did New 52 fail to attract new readers, it also lost decades of loyal fans. So it isn’t entirely surprising that, five years later, they’re trying something different. Though “not a reboot” (probably because the last one went so poorly) Rebirth plans to start all its series over again at #1 and reinstate all the canon that was lost in New 52.

    DC Rebirth

    To start it all off, DC has published a big, game-changing cross-over comic titled “DC Universe: Rebirth.” It takes the form of an 80 page one-shot that’s supposed to have the impact that CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS had in the eighties. Not to give too many spoilers, it starts with the reappearance of Wally West (aka Kid Flash), one of the many characters excluded from The New 52. He breaks into the New 52 universe (using the speed force, how else) to warn Flash and the other members of the Justice League that they’ve been toyed with. That 10 years of their life and memories have been stolen by Doctor Manhattan (from WATCHMEN), reducing them from their mature, legendary status to new heroes again.

    So we see the mechanism by which all the old history is going to be brought back. It’s important to note, however, that DC isn’t completely disregarding everything that happened in New 52. All of that will remain in-canon, just added onto all the old stuff. So it’s going to be messy, but as we’ve learned from the past, sometimes messy can be good.

    Have I caught your interest? Ready to read? Our library will be purchasing DC Universe: Rebirth Special to get you started. Anything beyond that, though, is up in the air. If you have a hero you like and you’re excited to see what they’re up to post-Rebirth, let us know! Our purchaser is much more likely to get a particular title if he knows someone wants to read it. I’m excited to get to read what you guys request and I’m crossing my fingers for how this turns out. Hopefully second time’s the charm for DC.

  •  arthurian

    Everybody knows the story of King Arthur and his Round Table... don't they? As a passionate medievalist, I am continually surprised by how little of the actual story people know. Anyone can tell me about Lancelot and Guenevere's doomed love, but many fewer know that Mordred, Arthur's bastard son, was the real destroyer of Camelot. The magic of Morgan le Fey, the purity of Sir Galahad, the elusive Questing Beast; there's a whole lot that you're missing out on if you only know the fairy tale version.

    My suggestion: dig a little deeper. There are dozens of different versions of the legends to explore, but to get you started here are five of my favorites.

    le morte darthurLE MORTE D'ARTHUR
    by Sir Thomas Malory

    This is the Arthurian Legend--the very first one ever written in English. Though calling it "English" might be a little bit of a stretch. Written in Middle English, the precursor to our current tongue, it is full of weird words and even weirder spellings. The story will seem much more familiar, however, since every King Arthur book that has come after has used this version of the myth as its starting point, whether directly or indirectly.

    It starts with Arthur's conception and Uther's magical seduction of Igraine. Touching briefly on Arthur's ascension to the throne, it then follows his battles as he consolidates his empire, challenges Rome, and establishes the Round Table. The adventures of the various knights, the quest for the Holy Grail; it's all in there.

    There are two major versions of Le Morte d'Arthur. William Caxton published the first version in 1485 along with his own extensive edits to the piece; this is known as the Caxton publication. The second version appeared in 1934 when the headmaster of Winchester College discovered a manuscript version of the work much closer to Malory's original writings; this is known as the Winchester manuscript. Provo Library has a copy of both Caxton and Winchester, each with updated spelling for a much easier read.

    once and future kingTHE ONCE AND FUTURE KING
    by T.H. White

    This version was a childhood favorite of mine and has spawned several popular adaptations including the musical Camelot and the cartoon movie The Sword and the Stone. It tells the story of Arthur's younger years at length, including adventures with Robin Hood and magical tales of Merlyn transforming young "Wart" into various animals for educational purposes.   During Arthur's adult years the book shifts to Lancelot's story, giving a surprisingly sympathetic and tender reading of the ugly knight's battle to choose between Guenevere and God. This version of the tale is by far the most charming I've read, written, you might imagine, by a kindly and wise old man not too different from Arthur's magical mentor. It is one of the funniest I've read, too; T.H. White invents a Merlyn that "lives backwards" in order to introduce all sorts of humorous anachronisms to the tale. Appropriate for both children and adults, this is probably my personal favorite of all the renditions of Arthurian legend.  

    the lost yearsTHE LOST YEARS
    by T.A. Barron

    Previously known as The Lost Years of Merlin, this version is much less a retelling of the traditional Arthurian myth as a spinoff of it. It tells the story of a teenaged Merlin, who wakes up on a beach with no memory of his childhood. As he attempts to rediscover the memories of his lost years, he must weigh the words of Branwen, a woman who claims to be his mother, against his own doubts.   This is the first book in a YA series that follows an amnesiac Merlin in his quest to understand not only his past but the magical power inside him. He quickly discovers that power without control is terrifying thing, and that even a controlled power has the potential for either good or evil.   I would highly recommend this series for younger readers who have maybe seen The Sword in the Stone and are interested in finding out more about the character of Merlin. Though none of Merlin's adventures in The Lost Years can said to be cannonical, they all come from Welsh mythology and are steeped in the same lore that gave birth to the original Arthurian myth.  

    mists of avalonTHE MISTS OF AVALON
    by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    Marion Zimmer Bradley tells the classic Arthurian tale with a unique twist: it is exclusively told from the perspective of women. It follows Igraine, Arthur's mother; Vivaine, the Lady of the Lake; Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's wife; and Morgaine, his half-sister; and tells the story of the rise and fall of Camelot from their conflicting viewpoints. A masterwork of new-wave feminism, it explores the sexuality of the Arthurian women, from Gwenhwyfar's supressed longing for the forbidden Lancelot to Morgaine's open promiscuity and celebration of the "life force." It also places the Arthurian legend at the turning point in history when religion was teetering between the ancient druidic customs and the new worship of Christ.

    The title refers to the fact that the isle of Avalon, where druids and priestesses of the old religion are schooled, is receding further and further from the rest of Britain, hidden behind a literal and metaphorical veil of mists. Arthur is pulled back and forth between ancient Goddess and Christ, and it is the women that surround and influence him that ultimately must make the decision of faith for all of Britain.  

    the seeing stoneTHE SEEING STONE
    by Kevin Crossley-Holland

    This is the first book in a YA trilogy that tells the story of young Arthur de Caldicot, the unhappy second son of a knight, who is given a magical stone by the wizard Merlin. In the stone Arthur can watch the story of the legendary King Arthur, and the young de Caldicot is surprised as he finds more and more parallels between his own life and that of the legendary King. Eventually young Arthur decides that what he sees are the events of a parallel world, a reflection of his own, and that as the mirror to a legendary king, de Caldicot has the opportunity to be just as great.

    Extremely well-written for YA, I would recommend this series for both teens and adults interested in Arthurian legend or in the medieval period in general.


  • intimacy

     When I started dating my now fiancé a few years back, I realized that there was a lot I didn’t know about physicality. Kissing was awkward, cuddling sent my anxiety through the roof, and holding hands still seemed like something for keeping little kids out of traffic. I knew that to get myself more comfortable with physicality I needed to learn more about it, so I started researching. The internet is a mixed bag on this topic, so I turned to books written by LDS authors for a clean, tasteful approach. Some of the books I read were extremely helpful, and some less so, but together they helped me overcome my initial fears of a physical relationship.

    Now that I’m engaged, I find myself revisiting the same books for a different reason: to prepare myself for a successful marriage. I find (again) that some LDS intimacy books can be more useful than others, especially depending on what stage you’re at and what you’re looking for. With that in mind, I would like to share not just the titles of the books I’ve read, but an explanation of what is helpful about each so that you can pick up the book that’s right for you next time you come into the library.

    Between Husband and WifeBETWEEN HUSBAND & WIFE 
    by Stephen E. Lamb and Douglas E. Brinley

    This book was not my favorite, but that’s because it was written with a very specific audience in mind. It is intended for those who want to prepare for marriage without “spoiling the surprise.” Advice is kept fairly general, and the chapter on the sexual response cycle is brief. If you want to hold off on detailed discussions of sex until after marriage, this is a good place to start. There a couple chapters at the end about the middle and later years of a relationship, but BETWEEN HUSBAND & WIFE is mostly geared towards engaged couples and newlyweds, including chapters like “The Honeymoon” and “What I Wish I’d Known.” Scriptural quotes and gospel context are also given a lot of space.

    by Robert F. Stahmann,  Wayne R. Young, and Julie G. Grover

    BECOMING ONE is a short book, but it packs in a lot of information. It includes frank discussions of what to expect physically, potential problems and their solutions, and a helpful FAQs section. It also has some wonderful sections about the differences between men and women and the ways they approach sex. The target audience is definitely engaged couples and newlyweds, but there is plenty that could be helpful for those who have been married a few years as well. For sheer density of helpful facts and advice, I would say this one is my favorite. It does spend very little time on gospel context, however, so if that’s what you’re looking for maybe start with another book first.

    And They Were Not AshamedAND THEY WERE NOT ASHAMED 
    by Laura M. Brotherson

    The very first words of this book are “Sex isn’t bad,” and the rest of the book goes on to attack the misconception that physicality is something dirty. Brotherson starts by explaining the “Good Girl Syndrome,” where LDS girls who have been taught their whole life that sex is bad struggle to change their mindset once married. She then tries to help those girls see sex as something beautiful: she reaffirms the sanctity of sexual relations, describes “The Symphony of the Female Sexual Response” in detail, and puts the physical relationship in the context of a spiritual and emotional relationship. She also explains a lot of the sexual differences between men and woman and offers advice on how to work together to make sure that both partners are satisfied. This book is definitely geared toward women, but is excellent both for women who are struggling with physicality and for men who are looking to better understand their partners. As a side note, those who find this book helpful might also enjoy KNOWING HER INTIMATELY, Brotherson’s new book.

    Sexual Wholeness in MarriageSEXUAL WHOLENESS IN MARRIAGE 
    by Dean M. Busby, Jason S. Carroll, and Chelom Leavitt

    This book begins by explaining the damaging sexual metaphors that are often used in the LDS church, and proposing an alternative model of sexual wholeness. As this was my introduction to the genre, and I found that model a helpful first step.  I also appreciated the authors’ scientific approach. There were anatomical diagrams to explain the male and female reproductive systems and discussion of things like nerve clusters and erogenous zones. More than that, however, I liked how applicable everything felt. Their anecdotes all come from people who approached the authors with questions, and it is surprising to see how many of the situations they describe apply to you. They have an entire third of the book devoted just to answering specific questions, so there’s a good chance they’ve answered yours. Finally, I feel like this book more than all the others can be applicable to any stage of the relationship, whether you’re just getting started or if you’ve been married for years.

    The Act of MarriageTHE ACT OF MARRIAGE 
    by Tim and Beverly LaHaye

    This last one isn’t actually LDS, but I felt the need to include it because it is easily the most famous Christian intimacy book. The book was originally published in 1976 — 1998 was when they released the revised and updated version — and was foundational to the development of the genre. Unfortunately, that also means that the cultural references are a bit dated. There are some pretty traditional gender roles implicit throughout, and if statements like "The natural longing of every woman's heart is to be a homemaker" bother you, this is probably the wrong book. If you are a couple with a more traditional mindset, however, this book can still be quite helpful. The science is good, and you can really feel the affection that Tim and Beverly have for all of their readers.


  • sanderson alikes


    So you’ve already read all of Brandon Sanderson’s books.  In fact, you’ve read everything he’s ever written, including the novellas. Now you’re bored out of your mind waiting for the next STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE book to come out because it’s taking FOREVER. So, what do you read? Well, there’s always WHEEL OF TIME. But either you’ve already read that (being the good Sanderson fan that you are) or you couldn’t muscle your way past Robert Jordan’s ridiculous verbosity. There are classics out there like LORD OF THE RINGS and David Eddings’ BELGARIAD, but to be honest, they’re a little slow. You want something new, something fresh, something that’s going to keep you turning pages until two in the morning. You know, something Sanderson-esque. Well, there aren’t any exact duplicates out there, but there are some that come pretty close. Here is a list of books that pass the “Sanderson test”—they’re Fantasy at its most engaging, most well-written, most complex, and most downright fun to read.


    goblin emperorTHE GOBLIN EMPEROR
    By Katherine Addison

    The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile. But when his father and three older brothers are killed, he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

    Sanderson Score: 3/5

    Though I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it had a great critical reception (it was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards), it has a lot less action than a Sanderson fan might expect. Sanderson does a little bit of court intrigue, but this book is ALL court intrigue. The writing is fairly good, but the formal “court language” has a lot of “thou” and “canst not,” which is a little annoying at first.

    Cleanliness: On par with Sanderson. So pretty clean!


    furiesofcalderonFURIES OF CALDERON
    By Jim Butcher 

    In the land of Alera, where people bond with the furies--elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal--young Tavi struggles to cope with his lack of magical talent.

    Sanderson Score: 5/5

    Not only does this book have an engaging plot set in a detailed world, it also has a totally unique Sanderson-esque magic system! The writing is fairly good and mostly disappears behind the plot and characters.

    Cleanliness: On par with Sanderson. So pretty clean!


    wizardsfirstruleWIZARD’S FIRST RULE
    By Terry Goodkind

    A beautiful woman falls into Richard Cypher’s life shortly after his father’s violent murder. When she reveals that her quest is to find the legendary Seeker of Truth to stop the evil Darken Rahl, Richard agrees to help.

    Sanderson Score: 4/5

    Though this book is older than the others and draws on a lot more classic fantasy tropes than Sanderson ever would, Goodkind problematizes those tropes in a very modern way. He adds moral quandaries and self-doubt to his good characters in a way that reminds me of Dalinar in THE WAY OF KINGS. Overall, though, I would only recommend this one if you enjoyed THE WHEEL OF TIME in addition to Sanderson’s other works, since that means you have more of a taste for 90s fantasy epics like this one.

    Cleanliness: Like in Sanderson, Goodkind’s characters use made-up swear words. The violence is a bit more graphic than Sanderson, though, and the second half of the book includes a dominatrix named Denna who might offend those sensitive to sexual content.


    princeofthornsPRINCE OF THORNS
    By Mark Lawrence

    After years leading a band of bloodthirsty thugs, Prince Jorg Ancrath returns to his father’s castle to reclaim his birthright, but faces magic and treachery once he arrives.

    Sanderson Score: 4/5

    Prince of Thorns is pretty engaging right from the start, with Jorg gloating over a town he has just ravaged and already making plans for his future rise to power. The night I read my sample of this one I actually stayed up until 2am because I couldn’t put it down. The main difference between this and Sanderson is that while Sanderson’s characters are usually fundamentally good, Jorg is fairly evil. You’re definitely rooting for him to become king, especially after everything that’s happened to him, but he frequently will cut up his comrades simply because they annoy him.

    Cleanliness: First, violence. There’s a lot of it, and it’s fairly graphic. Second, swearing. There is plenty of the word “fecking,” mixed in with some actual swears. Third, sexual content. Jorg’s thugs definitely participate in the rape part of rape and pillage and the group visits a lot of whore houses when they’re in town. If those things don’t deter you, though, (and it’s nothing as bad as GAME OF THRONES) you’re in for a treat.


    By Scott Lynch

    Sold into a crew of thieves as a child, Locke Lamora’s natural gifts soon make him an underworld celebrity. Forming a crew of Gentleman Bastards as an adult, he vows to take down the city’s crime boss.

    Sanderson Score: 5/5

    A cross between OLIVER TWIST and the first MISTBORN, this book has everything going for it in terms of plot, characters, and writing. It’s the best written fantasy I’ve picked up in ages, and it manages to capture everything good about the first MISTBORN book while remaining true to its own unique style.

    Cleanliness: Swearing. Big time. A lot. More than I’ve read in any book in quite some time.


    promiseofbloodPROMISE OF BLOOD
    By Brian McClellan

    After staging a coup, Field Marshal Tamas inadvertently provokes a war with the Nine Nations, forcing him to rely on his estranged son and a retired police inspector.

    Sanderson Score: 5/5

    This book is actually written by one of Brandon Sanderson’s writing protégés. McClellan attempts to capture Sanderson’s style while putting his own fantasy spin on the French revolution. Though the writing is occasionally rough (it feels like a first novel—lots of potential but not yet polished), the magic system is super cool, and Sanderson himself called the book “Just plain awesome.”

    Cleanliness: Very close to Sanderson levels. There is a tiny bit of swearing, but not much.


    hismajestysdragonHIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON
    By Naomi Novik

    When the HMS Reliant captures an unhatched dragon egg, Captain Will Laurence is swept into a kinship with it and joins the elite Aerial Corps.

    Sanderson Score: 3/5

    This one is a little out of the box, since it’s a historical fantasy that takes place during the Napoleonic Wars rather than an epic high fantasy. It’s engaging, the characters are compelling, and though it isn’t a mirror copy of something Sanderson would write, I still think that most of his fans would find it well worth a read.

    Cleanliness: On par with Sanderson. So pretty clean!  


    swordofthebrightladySWORD OF THE BRIGHT LADY
    By M.C. Planck 

    After stumbling into a magical medieval universe, mechanical engineer Christopher Sinclair agrees to serve as a priest and solider to the Bright Lady.

    Sanderson Score: 3/5

    My main beef with this book is its ultra-choreographed beginning. Christopher has to wonder if he’s dreaming at least 50 times before he finally gets with the program. Once he does, though, things get better. There’s definitely a fun CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT aspect to it where Christopher uses his knowledge of modern technology to his advantage in a medieval world. It also has some nice moral ambiguity thrown in, since the decision between siding with the goddess of healing or siding with the god of war is more complex than it first appears. Definitely not as well written as Sanderson’s stuff, but still pretty popular with his crowd.

    Cleanliness: On par with Sanderson. So pretty clean!  


    name of the windTHE NAME OF THE WIND
    By Patrick Rothfuss

    A magically gifted young man named Kvothe recounts his transformation into the world’s most notorious wizard, musician, thief, and assassin.

    Sanderson Score: 5/5

    You’ve probably read this one already. If you haven’t, you need to. This book is not only the best fantasy of the 21st century (yes, I’ll fight you over that), it has also has this ringing endorsement from Sanderson himself: “Masterful.... There is a beauty to Pat's writing that defies description.” 

    Cleanliness: The first book is just as clean as Sanderson, but the second book does have a good amount of sexual content.