A Discovery of Witches

Author: Deborah Harknessdiscovery
Publisher: Viking
Date: 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
ISBN: 9780670022410
Price: $33.50
Number of Pages: 579
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 3P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://deborahharkness.com/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/20/living/deborah-harkness-author-interview/

http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/celebrity/entertainment/monitor/2012/09/deborah-harkness-interview-shadow-of-night

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/deborah-harkness/discovery-witches/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-670-02241-0

Reader’s Annotation

Diana has vowed never to practice magic until she finds a manuscript that changes her life forever.

Plot Summary

The story is about Diana Bishop, a history scholar who is studying alchemy manuscripts at Oxford University. Diana was born into a family of powerful witches. However, ever since her parents were brutally murdered when she was a child, she has vowed never to use her magic. However, there are times in which she uses magic without realizing it, like one day at the library when she accidentally calls an ancient magical manuscript called the Ashmole 782. She believes it’s just another alchemy manuscript. When she touches it, however, she senses powerful magic. Somehow, her touch unlocks a secret text within the manuscript. She attempts to send it back, but the damage has already been done. The power of the manuscript has called all of the magical creatures to Oxford that have been looking for it for centuries. One such creature is vampire Matthew Clairmont, who comes into contact with Diana and begin to fall in love with each other. Unfortunately, their romance is forbidden by the covenant, who guards the safety of magical creatures. Soon, Diana is running for her life as creatures begin hunting her for her knowledge of the Ashmole and because of her forbidden romance.

Critical Evaluation

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. The historical elements are all extremely well done and interesting. However, the romance is cliché and the book is in need of massive editing. It’s way too long and filled with pointless scenes of her talking about her clothes or what she’s eating. The first quarter of the book is all about her going to the library to study, and the scenes feel repetitive and redundant. When the romance takes off, the story does become more interesting, but there’s no getting around that a vampire romance has been done countless times before. Harkness does do a good job of trying to make it feel different by making some changes to the vampire lore, but it still feels like Twilight for grownups. I do think Diana, as a character, has a lot of potential. I like how powerful she is, but I kind of wish that her powers were delved into earlier in the book. Matthew is also an interesting character, but I think more of the focus should have been on Diana’s power rather than his history as a vampire. All in all, it’s a decent book and I may read the other two in the series.

Appeal Factors

Intricately plotted, romantic, steamy, suspenseful

Read-alikes

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the historical aspects of the novel, such as alchemy and the Knights of Lazarus.
  • Discuss the relationship between Diana and Matthew.
  • Discuss the congregation and their purpose.

Justification of Selection

I am not a huge fantasy reader and I wanted to try a different kind that I had for the database assignment. I thought the historical aspects of the book sounded fascinating and I was interested in reading a book about witches.

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The Ocean at the End of The Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Collinsocean
Date: 2013
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9780062255655
Price: $25.99
Number of Pages: 178
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 5Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.neilgaiman.com/

http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/mar99/a-conversation-with-neil-gaiman-3991

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/06/neil-gaimain-talks-about-the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/neil-gaiman/ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-225565-5

Reader’s Annotation

One boy’s harrowing tale of friendship and sacrifice.

Plot Summary

The story begins with a man heading toward his childhood home after attending a funeral. Somehow, he finds himself going past his former home and winds up at the house at the end of the lane. He begins to remember that it was the home of a friend he had as a child named Lettie Hempstock. As he sits down by the lake, which he remembers Lettie called an ocean, he begins to remember the summer he spent with her.

Critical Evaluation

This is, hands down, one of my favorite books of the semester. It was masterfully written and has some of the most memorable scenes I’ve read in a while. Some of these scenes are genuinely creepy, and I love how the prose is so lyrical at times. The ambiguous ending may bother some readers, but to me it was perfect. This is a book I won’t forget soon. It has made me a fan of Neil Gaiman and I’m interested in reading more of his work.

At the recommendation of one of the students in our class, I decided to listen to the audiobook and I definitely have to agree with her. I had already read the book, but listening to Gaiman read the story brought a whole new level with my experience. Gaiman has a fantastic voice and it fit perfectly with this story. I also think I liked it so much because it was a shorter story. I think for me audio books are better in shorter bursts.

Appeal Factors

Bittersweet, lyrical, haunting

Read-Alikes

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Awards & Lists

Booklist Editors’ Choice – Adult Fiction for Young Adults: 2013

British Book Awards (the Nibbies): Book of the Year

Goodreads Choice Awards: 2013

Locus Awards: Fantasy Novel

School Library Journal’s Adult Books 4 Teens: 2013

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss why the main character remains nameless throughout the entire book.
  • Discuss why the main character is drawn back to the Hempstock farm.

Justification of Selection

This was the fantasy group selection which I was extremely happy about. This has been on my reading list for a while after several recommendations from classmates. I had read Stardust a few years ago and had really liked it and this one sounded fascinating. This book was amazing and is probably in my top three favorite books that I have read this semester.

Fables, Legends In Exile (Volume 1)

Author: Bill Willinghamfables
Illustrator: Lan Medina
Publisher: DC Comics
Date: 2003
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Mystery
ISBN: 9781401237554
Price: 12.99
Number of Pages: 125
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback

Rating Scale: 5Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.billwillingham.com/

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=53547

Links to Reviews

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=53547

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-56389-942-3

Reader’s Annotation

A room is covered in blood, a woman is missing and the big, bad wolf is on the case.

Summary

Fables is a series of graphic novels that is set around Fabletown, a town in New York which fairytale characters have made their home after getting kicked out of their own world. It is a mixture of both fantasy and mystery genres. The story begins with a man named Jack, who goes to Sheriff Bigby, who happens to be the big, bad wolf from fairytales. Jack informs Bigby that something has happened to his girlfriend, Rose, who happens to be the sister of Snow White. He finds Rose’s apartment covered in blood, with a message on the wall saying “No more happily ever after.” There is no body, but the sheer amount of blood suggests that Rose has been murdered. Bigby accepts the case and, with the help of Snow White, tries to uncover the truth of what happened.

Critical Evaluation

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. I liked the art, the characters and the story. The mix between fairytales and noir storytelling Bigby makes for a fascinating protagonist. It’s interesting to see him deal with being the sheriff but also having a dark past that people like to throw in his face all of the time. Snow White is also an interesting character, and the two have good chemistry together as friends that could possibly become something more. There’s also a whole host of interesting side characters that come up. If you know fairy tales, getting to see these characters adds humor and provides more context for the the world. I also thought the class struggle that was presented in the book was really interesting. You can see that some of the lesser fairytale creatures resent the more wealthy characters. Overall, I was really surprised at how good this was. It’s definitely made me interested in reading the rest of the series.

Significance of Book

This is a graphic novel series that has earned a lot of rave reviews and awards. It’s take on fairy tale character is fascinating and the characters are richly drawn and fascinating. The hardboiled mystery aspect meshes perfectly with the fantasy genre.

Read-alikes

Beautiful Darkness by Fabian Vehlmann

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Awards and Lists

As of 2012, Fables has won fourteen Eisner Awards.

Best New Series in 2003

Best Serialized Story in 2003, 2005 and 2006 (“Legends In Exile”, “March of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Homelands”)

Best Anthology in 2007 (Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall)

Best Short Story in 2007 (“A Frog’s Eye View,” by Bill Willingham and James Jean, in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team in 2007 (Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (Interior) in 2007 (Jill Thompson)

Best Cover Artist in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (James Jean)

While Fables only advertises winning fourteen Eisner Awards on their covers, the following Eisner awards have also been won by members of their staff for their work on Fables:

Best Writer in 2009 (Bill Willingham)

Best Lettering in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2011 (Todd Klein)

Fables: War and Pieces was nominated for the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.[24]Fables: The Dark Ages, Fables: Witches and Fables: Rose Red were also nominated.

Prominent review site IGN has called it “the best comic book currently being produced”[25]

Taken From Wikipedia

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the characters’ connection to the fairy tales. How are they similar? Different?
  • Discuss the graphic novel in terms of a classic hard boiled mystery.
  • Discuss the Wolf’s relationship with Snow White.

Justification of Selection

I was on the lookout for a graphic novel and this series immediately caught my eye. I like the idea of a modern twist on the classic fairytale stories mixed in with the mystery genre. There have been a lot of fairytale twists but I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)

Author: George R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam Booksgame
Date: 1996
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9780553573404
Price: $9.99
Number of Pages: 694
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.georgerrmartin.com/

http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1496

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/george-rr-martin/a-game-of-thrones/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-553-10354-0

Reader’s Annotation

Westeros is a dangerous place, but what lies beyond the wall may prove to be a greater threat.

Summary

A Game of Thrones is a richly detailed high fantasy novel that takes place in a medieval world called Westeros. The book centers on the Stark family, who lords of the northern part of Westeros. The king, Robert Baratheon, and the royal family come to visit the Stark’s home of Winterfell. During the visit, Baratheon asks Ned Stark, his friend and head of the Stark family, to serve as his Hand of the King, after the previous hand recently died under mysterious circumstances. During the visit, Stark’s youngest son, Bran, accidently witnesses an incestuous tryst between the queen and her twin brother. To insure his silence, the brother, Jaime Lannister, throws Bran from a tower. Bran is seriously injured and in a comatose state and everyone believes it was a tragic accident. Ned accepts the position of Hand to the King. However, the night before they leave for the capitol of Kings Landing, they are sent a letter from the wife of the previous Hand, who informs them that he was murdered by the Lannisters. Ned decides to still go but is determined to get to the bottom of the death.

Critical Evaluation

A Game of Thrones is a great novel with intricate characterization, world-building and plot work. The story is dense, with many twists and turns that keep the reader hooked to the story. The characters are very realistic and in-depth. Even though it’s a fantasy, he puts a level of realism in his books that it could almost be like a true history book. His characters have a level of realism in their actions and concerns that you would expect from characters in a historical novel. He doesn’t sugarcoat his characters. There’s really no hero that’s going to swoop down and save everything. This isn’t as apparent in the beginning of this book, but by the end, it’s clear that black-and-white morality has no place in this world. One of the other aspects that Martin really shines with is his plot work. He puts in detail that doesn’t come into fruition until later in the story. The depth and detail of this book is only rivaled by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien. Martin is the Tolkien of this generation.

Significance of Book

George R.R. Martin is a bestselling, award-winning author. His A Song of Ice and Fire series have come to be a pop culture phenomena, with a television show and game adaption. A Game of Thrones is intricately plotted, with richly drawn characters and a suspenseful plot. The level of detail Martin puts in his series is extraordinary.

Read-alikes

The Iron King by Maurice Druon

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Awards and Lists

Locus Award – Best Novel (Fantasy) (Won) – (1997)

World Fantasy Award – Best Novel (Nominated) – (1997)

Nebula Award – Best Novel (Nominated) – (1997)

Ignotus Award – Best Novel (Foreign) (Won) – (2003)

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss John Snow’s relationship with Catlyn Stark
  • Discuss Dani and her relationship with her brother
  • Discuss the King and Queen’s marriage
  • Discuss Tyrion’s relationship with Jamie and Cersi

 Justification of Selection

This always seemed to me to be a very daunting book to read, with its sheer page length and massive amount of characters serving as major detractors. However, the allure of stepping into the fascinating world of Westeros proved too strong and I just had to read it.