Settings are sometimes the best part of a story. Recently, I've read two books set in places I can't stop imagining myself in.
"Wildwood Dancing" by Juliet Marillier (Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99) is the tale of five sisters who live on the edge of a magical forest. Once a month, the girls sneak out of their room and go through a portal that leads to a fairy kingdom. There, they attend an elaborate dance hosted by the queen of the fairies.
Reading this book offered a perfect escape to another world, one where fairies and other magical creatures come to life. The author's vivid descriptions made it easy to imagine every place in the book, from the somewhat sinister forest where the sisters live to the captivating atmosphere of fairies' land.
The book is narrated by Jena, the second oldest and most sensible of the five sisters. Her constant companion is a frog named Gogu, who talks to her without speaking. After Tatiana, the oldest sister, falls for an inappropriate man at one of the parties, Jena struggles to keep her siblings safe - both from creatures of the night and their own cousin.
I'm a big fan of fairy tales, especially if they involve actual fairies, and I really loved this story. The book is intended for younger readers, ages 12 and up, but "Wildwood Dancing" is one of many children's stories that is elaborate enough to be enjoyed by adults as well.
After reading "Endymion Spring" by Matthew Skelton (Delacorte, $17.99), I'd really like to visit the libraries of Oxford, England. I loved the way the immense and seemingly endless libraries were portrayed in the book.
This novel, which is also intended for those 12 and older, tells the parallel stories of Blake, a present-day American boy living in Oxford with his mother, and Endymion, an apprentice at the printing workshop of Johann Gutenberg in Meinz, Germany in 1452.
At the beginning of the story, Blake discovers a mysterious book in St. Jerome's College Library in Oxford, where his mother is a visiting academic. The book has Endymion Spring's name in it. In flashback scenes, readers find out how Endymion found the volume and became its protector. In the present-day sections, Blake tries to learn as much about the history of the book as possible, which turns out to be more dangerous than he thought it would be.
I also enjoyed reading about Gutenberg's early printing processes. If it weren't for Gutenberg, known as the father of the printing press in the Western world, monks might still be copying books out by hand. And that would make it really hard for me to read as much as I do. In fact, without the printing press, you probably wouldn't be reading this newspaper right now - and I think that would be a real shame.
If there's a book you think I really ought to read, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.