Fantasy

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

“It was June and long past time for buying the special shoes that were quiet as summer rain falling on the walks. June and the earth full of raw power and everything everywhere in motion.  The grass was still pouring in from the country, surrounding the sides, stranding the houses.  Any moment the town would capsize, go down and leave not a stir in the clover and weeds.  And here Douglas stood, trapped on dead cement and red-brick streets, hardly able to move.”

The opening piece in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine finds Doug Spaulding at the start of his twelfth summer, yearning for a pair of running shoes that will let him be a part of the glorious season. Like the dandelion wine bottled and stored in his grandparents’ cellar, the memories of that long-ago summer are preserved to be savored by his readers.

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

No one can see women of a certain age. We--I am of a certain age--are nothing but the ghosts of our former selves. We have a contentious relationship with mirrors just like Snow White’s stepmother. We fight aging with Botox, HRT, calcium, and even anti-depressants. Clover Hobart in Calling Invisible Women has contemplated figurative invisibility, but one fall day she becomes literally invisible.

After thinking she has had a breakdown or a stroke, Clover becomes proactive and explores the possibilities of invisibility. This novel has laugh-out-loud moments, is well-plotted, has great characters, and has thoughtful ideas about women and aging.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Did you know that the Cinderella story is one of the world’s oldest fairy tales? The first version can be traced back to ninth-century China and was written about a heroine named Yeh-shen. Today, more than 1500 versions of the tale exist, many with a unique twist. I recently enjoyed what I consider to be the most singular version of Cinderella that I have ever come upon in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Cinder Linh is a cyborg – part human, part robot – who knows nothing of her birth parents or history. She is a ward of her evil stepmother, Adri, who relies on Cinder’s extraordinary talent as a mechanic to support the family all the while vilifying Cinder at every opportunity. Together with two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony, they live in technologically advanced, post-World War IV “New Beijing.” Unfortunately, New Beijing is threatened by an airborn plague called letumosis, which strikes at random and has an almost 100% fatality rate.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

In The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Princess Elisa is sixteen years old and getting married to a man she has never met – King Alejandro from neighboring country Joya d’Arena. Although plump Elisa often feels commonplace and dowdy, she is widely considered singular because she was chosen to bear the Godstone, a once-in-a-century occurrence. The living stone nestled in her navel marks her as God’s chosen one with a special destiny. Elisa has spent her years in Brisadulce living in her older sister’s shadow and studying the Scriptura Sancta in relative peace. Upon leaving, she is about to be thrust into a world of political intrigue and omnipresent danger for which she is ill prepared.

River Marked by Patricia Briggs

River Marked

I used to have an old Volvo that broke down frequently. The problem was a hose that would fly off of the engine. I always carried a screwdriver which I would use to reattach the hose and go on my way. One morning I was rushing in the door to work after one of these episodes when my supervisor stopped me. “What happened to you?” she asked with concern. I had no idea what she was talking about until I followed her eyes down to my arms and realized that my forearms were covered with black dirt and grease.

I explained about having to fix my car on the way to work, and she just stood and stared at me silently for a very awkward minute. Suddenly she burst into song! “I am woman. Hear me roar. With numbers too big to ignore. And I’ve come too far to turn back and pretend.” She turned to walk away but kept on singing at the top of her lungs. Her song only died away when she turned the corner and went down the other hall. 

Right then and there I decided to get a new car.

If you like Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori series) by Lian Hearn

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The first book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn is Across the Nightingale Floor: Set in an imaginary, ancient Japanese society dominated by warring clans, Across the Nightingale Floor is a story of a boy who is suddenly plucked from his life in a remote and peaceful village to find himself a pawn in a political scheme, filled with treacherous warlords, rivalry-and the intensity of first love. In a culture ruled by codes of honor and formal rituals, Takeo must look inside himself to discover the powers that will enable him to fulfill his destiny.

If you enjoyed this series' attention to historical detail and Southeast Asian-themed setting, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert Van Gulik
In the spirit of ancient Chinese detective novels, Judge Dee is challenged by three cases. First, he must solve the mysterious murder of Pure Jade, a young girl living on Half Moon Street. All the evidence points to the guilt of her lover, but Judge Dee has his doubts. Dee also solves the mystery of a deserted temple and that of a group of monks' terrific success with a cure for barren women. (amazon.com)

 

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
A fictional portrait of the last empress of China follows Orchid, a beautiful teenager from an aristocratic family, who is chosen to become a low-ranking concubine of the emperor and rises to a position of power in the Chinese court. (worldcat.org)


 

If you like Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin: New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake--orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying. Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beseiged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.

If you enjoyed "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin, you may enjoy these titles for the great writing, the philosophical undertones and a dash of romance:

The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen
"In the fall of 1900, Dr. Gustav Uyterhoeven left the chess garden that he and his wife, Sonja, had created together in Dayton, Ohio, and journeyed to South Africa to serve as a doctor in the British concentration camps of the Boer War. Over the next ten months he sent twelve chess pieces and twelve letters back to Sonja. She set out her husband's gifts as they arrived and welcomed all the most faithful guests of the garden to come and hear what he had written - letters which told nothing of his experience of the camps but described an imagined land called the Antipodes, where all the game pieces that cluttered the sets and drawers of the garden collection came to life to guide the doctor through his fateful and wondrous last adventure."-catalog summary

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
"Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad.  Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army.  Caught in the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island.  Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving."-catalog summary

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." -Cersei Lannister

I think epic fantasy literature offers the best kind of escape. In a well-constructed fantasy you can lose yourself in mastering the intricacies of plotlines, character charts, and the physical environment of the world. George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first in the Song of Fire and Ice series, is the perfect book to hook you and then submerge you in its rich, imaginative prose peppered with bravery, cowardice, betrayal, loyalty, violence, lust, and death. In other words, it's great fun all around.

A Game of Thrones follows three main storylines, each populated with a complex number of characters and sub-plots. In the Seven Kingdoms we have the plotting Lannisters, ever eager for power and riches; and the duty-bound, severe Starks, proud to the last. Along the Wall in the north there is John Snow, Eddard Stark’s illegitimate son and part of the Brotherhood of the Knights Watch, who guards the Seven Kingdoms from the savage barbarians, undead, and beasts in the wild beyond the Wall. And in the East there is young Daenerys Targaryen, an exiled princess now wed to a Dothraki horse lord, dreaming of reclaiming the Iron Throne.

The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

In the early 15th-century Venice of The Fallen Blade, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, no one is safe from the political ambitions of the ruling family--not even Giuliette, beautiful cousin of the Duke. She becomes a pawn in the schemes of her aunt and uncle who are regents for the simpleton Duke Marco. Meanwhile, Venice faces external threats from the Ottomans, the Byzantines and the German emperor. It is Atilo il Mauro's job as head of the Assassini to protect Venice and enforce the will of its ruling family while trying not to be destroyed by that family's internal power struggles.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti finds it terribly inconvenient to happen upon a thirsting vampire while she herself is simply starving at an ill-hosted party with few victuals. She quickly dispatches the vamp with her parasol, a handy weapon that has saved her many times. Of course the vampire was no true danger to Alexia, who, as a rare preternatural without a soul, restores mortality (and therefore vulnerability) to such supernaturals as ghosts, vampires, and werewolves with a single touch. These supernaturals co-exist with humans in an alternate Victorian London in Soulless by Gail Carriger, the first of the Parasol Protectorate series.