Librarians in The Forbidden Forest

The Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon is in full swing and some of your librarians have decided to join you in the journey! Reading twelve books in one month is quite a feat even for librarians, but we’ve armed ourselves with pretty awesome to-be read lists in hopes of conquering every obstacle in the forest. Check out our read-a-thon plans below to get some ideas for your own challenge, and feel free to share your to-be-read list with us!

Hannah’s Forbidden Forest Challenge:

Hannah and her dog Merry!
  • Talking Trees – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • The Witch’s House – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Fiery Fire Pit – Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  • Cursed Pond – The Ruins by Scott Smith
  • Shadow’s Shortcut – Elevation by Stephen King
  • Wolf Den – Winterhouse by Ben Guterson or a book in the Johnny Dixon series by John Bellairs
  • Mushroom Isle – The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
  • Poison Berry Bush – Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
  • Unicorn Grove – Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker
  • Will O the Wisps – Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
  • The Wish Well – The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
  • Carnivorous Plants – Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Ashley’s Forbidden Forest Challenge:

Check out Ashley’s reviews for other awesome book recommendations!
  • Talking Trees – A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Witch’s House – A Curse So Dark and Lovely by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Fiery Fire Pit – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Cursed Pond – Carrie by Stephen King
  • Shadow’s Shortcut – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • Wolf Den – Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Mushroom Isle – Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray
  • Poison Berry Bush – Me by Elton John
  • Unicorn Grove – Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way
  • Will O the Wisps – The Loving Cup by Winston Graham
  • The Wishing Well – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling
  • Carnivorous Plants – Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory

Trisha’s Forbidden Forest Challenge

Barbara Kingsolver is one of Trisha’s favorite authors!
  • Talking Trees: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • The Witch’s House: A Discovery of Witches by Derborah Harkness
  • Fiery Fire Pit: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
  • Cursed Pond: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
  • Shadow’s Shortcut: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • Wolf Den: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • Mushroom Isle: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
  • Poison Berry Bush: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Unicorn Grove: Lumberjanes by Mariko Tamaki
  • Will O the Wisps: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
  • The Wishing Well: Educated by Tara Westover
  • Carnivorous Plants: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Rachel’s Forbidden Forest Challenge

Rachel is also an amazing photographer!
  • Talking Trees: Jaws by Peter Benchly
  • The Witch’s House: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  • Fiery Fire Pit: Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • Cursed Pond: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
  • Shadow’s Shortcut: Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Wolf Den: George by Alex Gino
  • Mushroom Isle: Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • Poison Berry Bush: Between, Before and After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
  • Unicorn Grove: Fragments of Horror by Junji Ifo
  • Will O the Wisps: Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  • The Wishing Well: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Carnivorous Plants: The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

Alyssa’s Forbidden Forest Challenge

I’m ready to face the challenges of The Forbidden Forest!
  • Talking Trees: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
  • The Witch’s House: Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
  • Fiery Fire Pit: Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Cursed Pond: Rogue Angel: Labyrinth by Alex Archer
  • Shadow’s Shortcut: Violet and the Pearl of the Orient by Harriet Whitehorn
  • Wolf Den: Valkyrie by Kate O’Hearn
  • Mushroom Isle: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Poison Berry Bush: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
  • Unicorn Grove: Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.
  • Will O the Wisps: Cucumber Quest #2 The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G.
  • The Wishing Well: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult
  • Carnivorous Plants: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

The librarians even have our own little competition of sorts among the staff so we are ready to make it through this challenge! Feel free to share the books you plan on reading for this month, and let us know if you need any help!

Welcome to the Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon!

I dare you to read twelve books in one month. I dare you to enter the Forbidden Forest, face cursed ponds, trickster fairies, and a witch’s spells. I dare you to follow the path through the forest, forgoing that hour of Facebook scrolling or Netflix binging to brave the treacheries of the woods. Only you can answer the call, and only you can make it through unscathed. I dare you to try!

Now I know that for most of us, it seems impossible to read that much in a single month, but I can assure you that if you choose your books well and prioritize your time, you can make it through this challenge. Welcome to the Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon!

What is the Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon?

In honor of this year’s NEA Wichita Big Read, the library is hosting its first read-a-thon. Here’s a link to a previous blog post that may answer any questions you have about what a read-a-thon is.

The Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon will take place during the entire month of October and is open to both adults and teens in sixth grade or higher. Each of the twelve reading challenges are themed around obstacles you would find in a forbidden forest.

Who can participate?

This challenge is for both teens in 6th-12th grade and adults over the age of eighteen!

How do I participate?  

Step One: Pick up a tracking log at either the front desk or youth services desk OR print out the log yourself at the link here.

Step Two: Choose twelve books to read for the month by following the prompts. E-books and audiobooks count as do children’s books, middle grade books, and graphic novels/manga. A good rule of thumb is if the book can be found in the Goodreads database, it counts towards your read-a-thon!

Step Three: Read! You have until October 31st to complete all twelve challenges.

Step Four: Write down the twelve books you read on the submission form and turn it in to either the front desk or youth services desk at the library by October 31st. You will be entered to win one of two $50 Barnes and Noble Gift Cards!

We are so excited to be hosting a read-a-thon this year and hope you join us on this adventure!

The Wheel of TBR: September 2019

When it comes to reading, I’m not much of a planner. Or at least, I used to not be. I’ve known various readers who have a pre-determined to-be-read (TBR) list for the month or even for the next six months, but I never understood how a reader could plan exactly what they were going to read for a period of time longer than a week. What if I don’t feel like reading that book at the time I need to read it? What if I discover a new book that grabs my attention more than the ten books I planned to read in the month? And what if I don’t read what I planned?

This all changed over the summer when I participated in two read-a-thons. If you’re curious about what a read-a-thon is, feel free to check out my previous blog post about them here.

I did the Book Junkie Trials Read-a-thon in the month of July and managed to read a whopping seventeen books in the month! Then in August, I participated in the Magical Read-a-thon: NEWTS 2019 and read eighteen books in the month!!

I’ve never read this much in such a short amount of time, and I think my success has been actually coming up with a list of books to read ahead of time and sticking to that list as much as possible. I knew exactly how to plot out my reading by knowing the length and content of every book. I also had a destination in mind. After I finished a book, I didn’t mindlessly roam until I found another book that caught my interest or left my decision up to fickle emotions. The books on my list were books I was genuinely interested in, and I prioritized just those for the month.

I haven’t found any read-a-thons to participate in for September, but I did find this awesome YouTuber named Codie who creates a monthly to-be-read list using a wheel! Each space on the wheel is a topic and with every selection, she finds a book that fits.

I decided to make my own Wheel of TBR just to see what came up. After having read so many books in the past few months (and with many of those books being smaller), I thought to just go for ten books. Spin the wheel, and let fate decide.

Here were the topics I included. Of course, if you make a wheel of your own, you can include whatever topics you want!

  • Young Adult Fantasy
  • Adult Fantasy
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Tome Tackle (book over 500 pages)
  • Short Read (book under 200 pages)
  • Graphic Novel/Manga
  • Middle Grade
  • Erotica
  • Random Pick– Select a random book from my goodreads list
  • Highest Rated – organized books on goodreads by rating
  • Poetry
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • TBR Vet – a book that has been on my goodreads forever
  • Non-Fiction
  • Classic

I used WheelDecide to make the wheel, and I spun ten times. After I got my selections, I made my September TBR list from books on my Goodreads, books I had on my own shelf at home, and books that I’d recently discovered.

These are my Wheel of TBR September Selections:

I’ve spent the last week of August gathering these books from the library or by requesting them through Interlibrary Loan. I’m so excited to start with one of these books for the month and see if I can make my way through them all!

Do you think having a set TBR pile for the month would help you read more? Would you make a Wheel of TBR and let fate be your guide? Let me know if you give this a try!

Happy Reading!

P.S. If you’ve ever wanted to try a read-a-thon of your own, be on the lookout in the month of October. The library is planning something very special!

From Reader to Writer: It’s All About the Questions

It’s so easy to make excuses to not write. Besides the traditional reasons like lack of time, inspiration, or endurance, using the excuse of “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “I don’t know where to start” are great ways of letting those unfinished ideas drift into the abyss. Even though I have a fancy piece of paper from a fancy university that says I should know how to write, it’s still one of the hardest things to do. From character development to subplots to the type of language you choose, the technicalities of writing can lead even the most motivated writer to giving up the whole thing. To yank me out of this mentality and really get this ball rolling, I’ve recently found an awesome resource on Daily Om called How to Write Your First Book.

This blog-style course is really helpful in just getting down to it. You want to write? Well…then you have to write, and not just scribbles of ideas and hopeful dreams. You have to get into the trenches and answer those questions. What is the story? Who are the characters? How will you make the audience care about them? This course does a great job of literally giving you the questions and saying “okay, it’s up to you. Answer them.” As I’ve gone through the course, I realize so much of gearing up to write is about taking it one question at a time. I’ve spent an entire week mulling over one question until the answer showed up. When it did, I felt more confident in how much stronger my story’s foundation was.

Even when writing plot, the best way to tackle such a gargantuan task is to simply ask what could happen.

When you answer that question, ask it again. Then again. Then asks things like “who is my main character at the end of all of this? Why did I just take my audience on this journey?” By the end of those questions, the answers will be the skeleton of your work.

I think right now my biggest struggle with writing is relying on my own brain power to answer all of these questions. Being a writer means being decisive. You are the ruler of this kingdom, the god of this world, and it’s a lot of pressure to make so many decisions! But with each choice you make, it gets a little easier, and your writing gets clearer.

Good luck, writers, and keep moving forward!

From Reader to Writer: Morning Pages

I’ve never been much of the diary type. I have a crate full of journals and a moderate journal-buying obsession, but if one were to scour the contents of these books, they’d find mostly random thoughts, embarrassing poetry, and doodles of rose vines and cats. While I always have a journal with me to record ideas or to regurgitate intense emotions, I’ve never been good at keeping a daily journal. I always start with good intentions then either forget completely or make excuses for not continuing.

Back in 2016, I discovered The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and it revitalized my creative process. It challenged me to reflect deeply and to make a practice out of writing. One of the vital elements of Julia Cameron’s method is to write morning pages every day. Recently, I’ve decided to go through Cameron’s 12-week process again and have been reminded of the importance of doing the morning pages as often as possible.

What Are Morning Pages

Morning Pages are three, long-hand, stream of consciousness pages of writing done every day, preferably in the morning right when you wake up. They can literally be about anything. They should never be shared and really, you shouldn’t read them for at least eight weeks. Most people destroy them after writing them.

Why Would You Do This?

I see it as a clearing. It sweeps away all of the things that clutter your head. From anxieties that you need to let go of or ideas that you don’t want to forget, the morning pages give you a space to exist in written form. Writing long-hand instead of typing on your phone or computer is a way to ground and re-center you without technology. There is something comforting about putting pen to paper and just letting the words flow in any way.

This is excellent training for writing a first draft. First drafts are tough. It’s important when starting out that you just get the ideas on paper. Revision and critiquing comes after the words get down, but it’s hard to turn that filter off even when writing the first time around. Morning Pages trains your brain to turn off that internal critique and let the words flow.

I’m not going to lie. I only get my morning pages done about half the time, but when I do get to them, my brain feels so much clearer. As I keep going through The Artist’s Way program in hopes of re-invigorating my creativity, I definitely am working to make morning pages a habit for both my mental and creative health.

Would you ever consider writing morning pages? Perhaps maybe give The Artist’s Way a try? Let me know what you think, and I’ll keep you posted as my writer’s journey continues.

From Reader to Writer: World Building Resources

Both readers and writers can agree that one of the best parts of stepping into an imaginative story is the immersive world building. From Tolkien’s Middle Earth to Rowling’s Wizarding World, the intricacies of creating an entire world are addictive. For genres like fantasy and science fiction that rely on otherworldly elements, it’s a writer’s ability to engage the five senses which hooks us into a story even more than writing plot or characters.

But when it comes to world building, the pressures of playing god can sometimes get really overwhelming. How do you keep it all straight? How do you determine the origins of your world, the climate, the geography, not to mention the cultures, races, plants, and animals that make your world not only believable, but habitable? How do you even know what questions to ask or what information is most important in your story?

As I’m working through my own writing, I’ve found that world building can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s immensely enjoyable to get lost in a world so different from my own, but world building is also an excellent excuse to create and create without really writing anything. I want to be careful not to risk getting “world builder’s disease,” an affliction that plagued even Tolkien where a writer creates every tiny, little detail of a world, inevitably running themselves into the ground and burning out.

To keep my thoughts organized, I’ve discovered this incredible resource. WorldAnvil is a free website that lets a writer, artist, or role-playing gamemaster organize an entire world in an encyclopedia format. The website has an article for various types of entries, and the articles prompt a range of questions that guide you through construction. WorldAnvil also has paid subscription options that offer access to more resources and functions in the website, but you can use the website without having to pay a thing.

I also found WorldAnvil’s YouTube channel and this video on tips for worldbuilding helpful. Beyond WorldAnvil, there are some great videos featuring advice from both seasoned writers and RPG game developers. This video on fantasy map construction is awesome!

Another amazing resource is best-selling author Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on writing. Many of his classes are available on YouTube including this one on worldbuilding.

When writing a story or even developing a world for a role-playing game, there are many elements and decisions to make. It’s intense and rewarding. Use this phase of your creative journey as an outlet to be eccentric and try things. When the real plotting begins, you’ll be so immersed in your story that much of the work will already be done.

From Reader to Writer: Finding Courage to Work

Do you remember what you were like when you were a child? You were fearless, unbridled, and free of the smudges left by other people’s opinions and motivations. If you said you were an astronaut, you were an astronaut despite the technicalities of school and space travel. But somewhere along the way, you grew and fear within you grew as well. The fear of expectation, failure, and entitlement took over and before you knew it, you couldn’t bear to call yourself an astronaut, let alone become one.

This is what happened to me. My oldest memory is that of calling myself a writer. From age three on, the answer I always gave to every adult who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. “Writer” became my identity. It didn’t matter if the writing was bad or if I never finished a project. I knew that somehow it would all work out, and I would find my name on a glossy, well-bound book on the shelf.

I can’t tell you when it started, but something snapped along the way. I found it uncomfortable to call myself a writer. Then I found it uncomfortable to write at all. Even after years of school, years of practice, and years of reading books, I still couldn’t seem to feel confident in the work I was doing. What was the right story, the right character, the right word? Soon, the fear became a dull excuse that manifested into too exhausted or too busy or too uninspired. Now it’s been months since I’ve touched my work, and that dream I was so sure of as a child is drifting further and further out to sea.

Unused creativity is not benign. If you find that you are called to create something and you resist that call, it will slowly eat away at you.

– Elizabeth Gilbert

I believe this to be true. I find myself resenting authors for their successes. I resent myself for my lack of discipline and confidence. And I miss my work. This must mean that the ideas and stories and characters that keep boggling my brain want to be heard. They don’t want me to leave them behind. Perhaps there is art that you have left behind too whether writing, drawing, dancing, film making, or singing.

Here are three resources that might help you find the courage to work:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

This is more of a class or workshop than a self-help book. Cameron provides concrete exercises and techniques to move you past your block or fear and into a space of making things that feels genuine and authentic.

Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book validates what you might be feeling. Gilbert uses her own experiences, and her perspective on creating something from nothing to challenge you out of your comfort zone.

Magic Lessons Podcast

Bringing Big Magic to life, this podcast features people who are struggling with creating and ask Elizabeth Gilbert for advice. Besides giving her own information and encouragement, Gilbert brings in professionals like Cheryl Strayed, Neil Gaiman, and Brene Brown to share their stories of how they conquer their fear and come to a place of fulfillment in their work.

I hope these resources might kick start your creativity. Let me know if you have ever felt fearful of making things or sharing your art, and I’ll be back with another post about my journey from reader to writer.

The Dreaded Reading Slump

Lovely library patrons, I must confess something absolutely atrocious. I have been in a reading slump. I can feel you clutching your pearls as you read those miserable words. As readers, we delight in the stories, the characters, and the magic of a book, but sometimes, our minds turn dreary and our attention spans rival that of a two-year old. Sometimes, we just don’t want to read.

This slump couldn’t have attacked at the worst possible time. With only a month left in 2018, I’m seeing my goal of reading 100 books for the year drifting further and further away. It’s a shameful thing, but I am determined to break this slump and return to the hours curled up with a world in my lap. Here are five tips to ease this burden if you find yourself sitting with the slump monster.

  1. Don’t Read.

How can I say such things?! Have I betrayed my clan of librarians and forever ruined our good name? No, because frankly, we’ve all been there. Reading should be fun. It’s a hobby, a leisure activity, and just like sometimes you get tired of sewing or scrapbooking, you can get tired of reading. It doesn’t mean the love of it has left. It’s just taking a vacation. So take a vacation too. Don’t force yourself to read. Binge watch that Netflix show, take walks with your family, start up a new exercise or just stare blankly at the wall. A part of you is telling yourself that you need something whether it’s rest or re-connection. Instead of pushing that away, listen to it and soon, you’ll find yourself craving a book.

  1. Make It Social

Reading is primarily a solo activity, and that can make isolating. To get out of a slump, try mixing it up by adding others to your experience. Join a book club (we have some awesome ones) or even read a book informally with a friend. I’m currently reading a book recommended by one of my good friends who heard about it through Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Once I finish it, we’ll meet up to discuss!

  1. Start Small

When the slump monster shows up, it’s not the time to bust out Anna Karenina. It’s the time to give your brain a little breather with a shorter work. Try reading a book that’s less than 100 pages or something light in content. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable for grown-ups to read middle grade and kid’s fiction! Also feel free to give poetry a try. There’s a pretty awesome collection of poetry books to download on Hoopla!

  1. Read a Favorite

Why visit something unknown when you could return to a world you know and love! A reading slump is the perfect time to revisit an old favorite story from childhood or your favorite book from a few years ago. You’ll gain something new from your current perspective, and it might be just the push you need to get you back on track.

  1. Mix It Up

Seeing your reading slump as an opportunity instead of an opposition can be a helpful shift. Try diving into a genre you would have never explored before or an author that you’ve heard a lot about but never given a chance. Also use this time to mix up the way that you consume stories. Download an audio book or give e-books a try. You might even want to read a play or script. It all counts, and it all can help in moving you forward.

 

No matter what you do, remember that reading slumps aren’t forever. A book will come along and re-spark your interest or time will pass and you’ll find yourself reaching out for a great story!

Can Shakespeare Make Sense?

We all know him, that 16th century bard with the weird hair and a penchant for killing off everybody in his plays. You’ve probably had to endure the musings of that Prince of Denmark or the fawning of the young lovers in a high school English class and perhaps you’ve even been dragged to a bloody production a time or two. You might have even encountered one of the countless adaptations while searching for something to watch on Netflix or seen one of his quotes on a museum wall, but for most of us, Shakespeare is fairly unreachable. As Mare Winningham, a well-known actress and decorated Shakespearean performer, once said:

“It’s practically in another language.”

Only in the last ten years have I really considered giving Shakespeare a chance, and even still, it’s required a scholarly mood. However, in the past month, I think I’ve finally cracked the code on how to actually enjoy, and dare I say, even adore Shakespeare.

It all started with a discovery on YouTube. One of my favorite actresses is Joanna Vanderham. I loved her performance in BBC’s The Paradise, and in a passing video search of her other works, I found this rehearsal video of Othello on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s channel. It’s so cool! Joanna plays Desdemona, and it showed her and another actress performing their characters with the director’s input. I’d never read Othello so I became instantly intrigued by the story, and this director’s take on it. After watching all of the rehearsal videos on YouTube, I found that I can actually watch this production online (and I don’t even have to leave my house!)

Antony Sher in RSC’s production of King Lear

Digital Theater is this really awesome streaming site that lets you watch many Royal Shakespeare Company productions. These shows are legit. They’re directed by esteemed professionals and performed by trained Shakespearean actors who live and breathe this stuff. One of the actors, Antony Sher, even writes books about his year in study of each character. So I rented Othello and was entirely engrossed. Shakespeare was coming to life for me just in seeing it actually come to life. I must confess, though, that at times I got lost so that’s where my next tool in this toolbox comes in.

SparkNotes has this website called No Fear Shakespeare, and it’s phenomenal. It’s basically a line by line translation of Shakespeare’s works, but the translations aren’t watered down. In fact, the translations sometimes are even beautiful in their own right. For the first time in all my reading of Shakespeare, I truly understood everything that was going on. I saw how devious Iago really was, why Cassio felt so ruined, and why Othello behaved erratically. Once I watched the RSC performance, I went back and read the entire play on the SparkNotes. I read Shakespeare’s lines first and then read the translations just to make sure I grasped it. I took my time with it instead of rushing through and losing meaning. I even kept a file for all of my favorite lines. By the end of Othello, I truly felt the story.

“To mourn a mischief that is past and gone

Is the next way to bring new mischief on.”

– Iago, Othello

So You Want To Actually Like Shakespeare?

Pick a play that you’re generally interested in. It could be something as popular as Romeo and Juliet or more lighthearted like Much Ado About Nothing or The Taming of the Shrew. Then I’d recommend reading a summary of the entire story.  Shakespeare isn’t about spoilers and surprises. It’s about feeling for the motivations of these characters and finding lines that are treasured gems so get a grasp of the basic plot first (and for some plays, that’s a feat in itself). Then if you can, I’d recommend renting a performance of it on Digital Theater (the prices are shown in pounds, but when you rent a show, it converts the price to dollars automatically). Watch it, have the No Fear Shakespeare tab open, and just revel in the performance, art direction, and style. After you’ve seen the play, I would then actually give reading the play on No Fear Shakespeare a chance. Read the original lines and use the translation for guidance. With the story having sunk into your soul a bit, you’ll find that lines jump out at you with so much more meaning.

This is definitely a different way of reading. It’s slower, more methodical, and requires a little time for your brain to settle into it, but I promise, if you give this a try with even one of Shakespeare’s plays, you’ll really feel different about it. For me, I’m planning King Lear next. Antony Sher’s  performance looks like a masterpiece.

Good luck, Shakespearean fellows!

 

Book Review: Still Star-Crossed

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

First line: In Fair Verona’s streets, the sun was hot.

Summary: Weeks after the tragic deaths of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, the city of Verona is deep in grief. The city seeks someone to blame and with tensions so high, Prince Escalus must do something to re-build trust and ignite hope. He turns to Juliet’s cousin (and Romeo’s first love), Rosaline, and Romeo’s kinsman, Benvolio, for help. By bringing these two together in matrimony and uniting the houses, Escalus believes the city of Verona will finally find peace. The only problem is that Rosaline and Benvolio can’t stand the sight of each other and blame the other for their loved one’s death. Set against Shakespeare’s brilliant backdrop and filled with infatuation, betrayal, and death, Still Star-Crossed answers the question we all have once the curtain closes on Romeo and Juliet’s story; what happens next?

Here I made this for you. ‘Twas finished weeks ago. I should have known better than to expect your attentions when you had no further need of me.” She thrust a scrap of cloth at him. “Here.”
He took it. It was a handkerchief, embroidered with the Montague crest. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Go choke on it.”

Highlights: This book is a must for any Shakespeare lover. Taub’s writing mirrors all the good points of Shakespearean language while still making it feel accessible. Our main characters, Rosaline and Benvolio, are exquisite. Rift with prejudice, flaws, and despairing grief, they feel so human and relatable while still capturing the reader’s attention with their gentleness. The betrayals in this story are also incredibly tantalizing as are the villains. Melinda Taub makes Shakespeare’s city of Verona feel so real. She includes little details (some of them references to other plays), and it’s fun to see Romeo and Juliet come to life in a new way.

Lowlights: Obviously if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare or Shakespearean dialogue, this might be a difficult read for you. Also, the betrayal in this story, while believable, was not particularly clever. I figured out who the traitors were about mid-way through. The story does also slow down a little in the middle of the book, and Rosaline’s affection for one particular character is annoying after a while, especially when this character betrays her trust. Overall, though, the flaws of this novel are flaws that any critic of Shakespeare would give one of his plays which shows how closely to Shakespeare Melinda Taub wrote this book.

FYI: This book was actually turned into a TV series on ABC that was executive produced by Shonda Rhimes. I haven’t watched the show yet, and it was canceled after only one season, but it might be worth checking out!