Coffin varnish… and actual coffins [Café Libro]

Emily Dexter

In Libba Bray’s novel The Diviners, protagonist Evie O’Neill travels from Ohio to the bustling atmosphere of New York City in the 1920s. Evie movies in with her uncle Will, the owner of the failing Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, with high hopes of living it up amid the excitement and glamour of the city’s speakeasies and opportunities for fame. Of course, she doesn’t mention all the prohibited “coffin varnish” to Will—or the real reason for her exile from Ohio: a mysterious power that allows her to read objects. Soon, Evie finds herself in the middle of a much darker plot than she expected, as she, Will, and a pair of handsome new companions work to uncover the real story behind a series of murders plaguing the city.

There are many things I adore about The Diviners, from Libba Bray’s elegant and honestly masterful writing style to the strength of the characters. Told from many points of view, this book is a literary triumph. However, I must be frank in also noting that it is not a read for the faint of heart. The emphasis on the supernatural and the occult made me more than a little uncomfortable at times. For that reason, my advice is to read the book, but to not be hesitant to skip a few chapters here and there if you find yourself getting a little creeped out.


The next challenge:

Carson, for this next week, I challenge you to read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. This realistic novel tells the story of a modern-day Rapunzel: a teenage girl named Maddy whose rare disease keeps her trapped in the confines of her house. Maddy feels little connection to the outside world, until a new family, including a boy her age who piques her interest like no other, moves in next door. Everything, Everything is a book full of twists and turns, plus drawings and messages that break up the text and make the story come to life. Enjoy!


On this blog, Emily Dexter and Carson TerBush will put their book recommendations to the test. Each week, one will challenge the other to read a book she has read before and enjoyed. The following week, they will judge the recommended book and then propose the next challenge. They hope to inspire new readers to read some new books. To read more, check out the Café Libro blog at