From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler- E. L. Konigsburg
Synopsis: When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere — to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Review: Technically this story does not take place in a library, but I love this book so much I chose to include it anyways. A library does appear in the last fourth of the book, so close enough. Everyone, at one point in childhood, dreams about running off and living somewhere exotic. Places like museums and libraries always feel like another world since child only visit them during school trips or parent mandated family time. As such, these building hold a mystic wonder over children and pulls them into the grips mystery and imagination. Adults just do not experience the same feelings. This book deals with a young girl looking for something different, a place to live that differs drastically from her ordinary suburban existence. Kongisburg really captures all the conflicting emotions and desires that pre-teens experience without wallowing in overly developed existential angst.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Walker Books Ltd, 2003 (reprint), ISBN: 9780744583274
The Invisible Library-Genevieve Cogman
Series Synopsis: Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. Along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she is posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. However, London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. A simple mission soon turns into a reality hopping adventure that could change the course of history. (Adapted from Goodreads
Review: Libraries? Dragons? Alternate worlds? What is not to like? I practically grew up in a library; I still lurk around in my local branch weekly. Any book that combines fantasy characters and crime solving librarians will eventually appear on my to-read list. The Invisible Library Series is a frothy and light adventure read; this is not the next Game of Thrones. However, the story pulls you in and keeps you engaged until the last page, which I consider the highest form of writing achievement. I actually ran out to the bookstore after finishing the second book because the library did not have books three and four. If you want a fast, but enjoyable read, I would recommend this series. I will complete a more thorough review later.
Thursday Next-Jasper Fforde
Series Synopsis: Thursday Next is a literary detective who goes inside books from her futuristic time-travel world. In this universe, England is a republic; George Formby is the first president, elected following Operation Sea Lion (the mooted Nazi invasion of Great Britain), occupation, and liberation. There is no United Kingdom, and Wales is the independent “Socialist Republic of Wales”. The Crimean War is still being waged in 1985, Russia has a Czar, and the Whig Party exists in the House of Commons. In this world, the most valuable resource is the written word and people will kill for a manuscript. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Review: The Thursday Next series deals with the ability to use literature to travel into innumerable other worlds. Each world bears just enough semblance to reality to not feel foreign, yet just enough differs to not feel right. Fforde’s heroine Thursday Next is a literary detective, tracking down forgeries and unauthorized manuscripts in a world ruled by literature. If you enjoy reading classic literature, this series winks and nods to all the revered masters of the past. Picking up on all the in jokes adds an enjoyable element to the series. I also enjoy reading about slightly weirder versions of reality, especially ones obsessed with literature. My one problem with this series is I think Fforde dragged the story on just a little too long; the series should have ended with book five. Overall, the Thursday Next series is a perfect read for lazy days– a great escape and a grand adventure.
The Thirteenth Tale-Diane Setterfield
Synopsis: Reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist. The enigmatic Winter spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Review: The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield’s debut novel, pays homage to the classic romantic gothic mystery novel, specifically Rebecca and The Woman in White. For a debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale shows a lot of promise. The narrative, plotting, and world building showcase the earliest emergence of a competent gothic genre author. As with most debut novels, the bad parts stand out more than good. Aurelius is an incredibly predictable stock character, and Setterfield rushes the ending in an attempt to tie up all the dangling subplots. One problem with using classic gothic romance as a guide is that the ending becomes apparent within three chapters. While I like the originality of the narrative, the book loses appeal because the plotting and characters become predictable almost immediately. Once you know the ending, the book loses a lot of it re-read allure, mainly because there is not enough descriptive material to let the narrative consume your mind while reading. Overall, this is a quick, enjoyable read suitable for summer vacations.
The Thirteenth Tale, Atria Books, 2006, ISBN13: 9780743298025
The Great Library Series–Rachel Caine
Series Synopsis: What if the Great Library of Alexandria survived the test of time? Now a ruthless and supremely powerful entity, the Great Library exists in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but expressly forbids the personal ownership of books. Printed books are worth millions and numerous people risk their lives to smuggle them outside the Library’s all seeing eyes. Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family. His family sent Jess to spy on the Library, but his loyalties are tested when he finished training and enters the Library’s service. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Review: This series rewrites history and imagines a world where the Library reigns supreme. All earthly governments must bow down to the supremacy of the Library or face certain death. Most of the other series on this list cast the Library and librarians as heroes. This series views them as the villains. I like this series for the pure inventiveness of the story; it seems slightly plausible that a malevolent library could rule the world. Priests ruled the world back in the old ages; a library can certainly turn evil in the future. As a young adult series, the narrative falls into a couple of the tropes common to this genre. All teenagers are brilliant and the (older) adults are incompetent idiots. Unless they are on the side of the teenagers, then they have some modicum of intelligence. None of the characters possesses much dimensionality: there is the maverick hero; the tough girl; the damsel-in-distress-with-a-steely-backbone love interest; the jaded teacher; the damaged genius; and the mismatched couple who come to realize they really love each other despite their differences. Over the course of the three books, none of these characters really change or become more fleshed out. My one major gripe with the series is the overtly political undertones. As a rule, I tend to dislike books that push a particular political agenda because I feel this pulls me out of the story. Unless the book is written to make a point (which this one was not), I should not be able to tell your political viewpoints after reading a piece of fluffy popular fiction. Despite this, this series is enjoyable because I like the absurdity of a malevolent library bent on world domination.