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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #805

Tue, 05/17/2022 - 9:57am by muffy

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung 

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Lessons in Chemistry * * * by Bonnie Garmus is by far, one the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).  Already translated into 34 languages, it is being developed into an Apple TV+ series, starring Brie Larson

"Set in 1960s California, after a violent encounter with her PH.D advisor, Elizabeth Zott was escorted off the UCLA campus, and landed at Hastings Research Institute as a research chemist, where she has a run-in with her super-star colleague Calvin Evans over some missing beakers. Twice nominated for the Nobel and highly recruited while still in his 20s, Calvin was awkward, arrogant, and tenacious. But to Elizabeth’s surprise, was also kind,  the only one to treat her as an equal, and there was true chemistry between them. 

Three years later, Elizabeth found herself a single mother and out of a job. An unlikely confrontation with a TV producer landed her as the host of America's most beloved TV cooking show, Supper at Six

“With the help of a forthright neighbor, a loyal TV producer, and an astute dog, Elizabeth forges a path that includes an unexpected hobby as a rower and her no-nonsense cooking show, in which she draws on her knowledge of chemistry. Indefatigable and formidable, Elizabeth pushes the bounds of how women and their work are perceived in this thoroughly engaging debut novel.” (Booklist) 

“Feminism is the catalyst that makes Lessons in Chemistry fizz like hydrochloric acid on limestone. Elizabeth Zott does not have ‘moxie’; she has courage. She is not a ‘girl boss’ or a ‘lady chemist’; she’s a groundbreaker and an expert in abiogenesis...To file Elizabeth Zott among the pink razors of the book world is to miss the sharpness of Garmus’s message. Lessons in Chemistry will make you wonder about all the real-life women born ahead of their time—women who were sidelined, ignored and worse because they weren’t as resourceful, determined and lucky as Elizabeth Zott. She’s a reminder of how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.” (New York Times Book Review)

Listen to this delightful NPR interview with the author.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #804, Unlikely (and mostly reluctant) Sleuths

Sat, 04/30/2022 - 8:10pm by muffy

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The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Toronto librarian Eva Jurczyk (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook)

Librarian Liesl Weiss at the rare books department of a large university is recalled from her well-earned sabbatical when the library director, Christopher Wolfe suffers a stroke, and is in a coma.  Now the interim director, Liesl discovers that a newly purchased priceless manuscript, a Plantin Polyglot Bible, is missing from a locked vault. Her attempts to bring in the police are repeatedly rejected by the president of the university. Then a female colleague goes missing and another rare book, a Peshawar manuscript that may include the very first use of a zero, is found to be a facsimile under unscheduled carbon dating. Liesl begins to suspect her trusted colleagues.

“Filled with characters that resonate, glimpses into the reality of libraries and academia, and enchanting descriptions of rare books, this debut from a librarian will captivate bibliophiles.” (Library Journal)

 

verifiers

The Verifiers, * * *  “thoughtful, well-constructed debut” (Publishers Weekly) by Jane Pek, is one of the most anticipated mystery & suspense of 2022. (Electric Lit)  (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook). It has just been named by Kirkus Reviews as one of 32 Books That Celebrate Diversity.

Claudia Lin is the new hire at Veracity, a New York City dating detective agency - an ideal job for a lifelong mystery reader who wrote her senior thesis on Jane Austen. Claudia’s job is to check information for clients who want to know whether the people they meet on online dating sites are telling the truth.  As Claudia notes, "Matching only fully succeeds if the dating platforms have access to accurate, complete information about the people on them. Problem is, people lie. All the time, especially on the Internet, and extra especially where anything with the potential for romance is concerned." 

Then her client Iris Lettriste is found dead, and the real Iris shows up, looking for answers. Despite warnings from her bosses to drop the case, Claudia decides to investigate.

“A cool, cerebral, and very funny novel…. Beautifully complemented by entertaining secondary characters that include Claudia’s artistic roommate, Max, and Lionel, Claudia’s sister’s boyfriend, Claudia is the seductive protagonist in a tale that delves into the dark heart of contemporary technology, not to mention the foibles of the human heart….With an inquisitive, clever, and curious narrator, this adventurous mystery is both scary and hilarious.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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The Violin Conspiracy *  by Brendan Slocumb (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “a galvanizing blend of thriller, coming-of-age drama, and probing portrait of racism ... This flawless debut will do for classical music what The Queen's Gambit did for chess.” (Booklist) 

The novel opens with Ray McMillian, a Black virtuoso violinist on the cusp of his biggest challenge yet - competing in the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition that no American has won before, when he discovered that his violin had been stolen from his New York City hotel room.  It’s no ordinary violin -  the beat-up old fiddle, a gift from his grandmother, once belonged to his great-great-grandfather is actually a priceless Stradivarius.  Ray suspects the Marks family, descendants of the man who once enslaved his  great-great-grandfather, and assert that the instrument is rightfully theirs, and his own extended family who see it as their ticket to easy street. 

When the police, the FBI, and the insurance company's investigator hit dead ends, Ray will have to piece together the clues to recover his instrument, or come up with $5 million ransom demand. 

“This novel brings an unflinching eye to the sometimes-cutthroat world of classical music, its very white culture, and the challenges a talented young Black violinist might face in that world. But in Ray, a man who strives toward honor and kindness despite the racist acts (some of them violent) he endures, the story also finds its heart.” (Library Journal) 

“Such a page-turner . . . a musical bildungsroman cleverly contained within a literary thriller. . . Slocumb isn’t too different from his protagonist: a natural. He easily conjures the thrill of mastering a tough musical passage and the tinnitus-like torture of everyday racism.” (The New York Times)

A word about the audiobook - unless you are a trained musician, the classical pieces played throughout the recording are helpful and informative,  certain to enhance your listening pleasure.

 * = Starred review

 * * *  = 3 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #803, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Fri, 04/01/2022 - 9:01am by muffy

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The Unsinkable Greta James * * is YA author Jennifer E. Smith’s adult fiction debut (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).

30-something indie rock musician Greta James is about to launch her high-stakes sophomore album. It has been 2 years since her career imploded on stage soon after her mother, Helen’s sudden death. Still grief-stricken, Greta reluctantly agrees to accompany her father, Conrad on the Alaskan cruise, planned by Helen to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.  While Helen had been Greta’s most  devoted fan, Conrad never supported Greta’s “impractical” career choice. Hoping to reestablish rapport, their time on board is prickly at best. In the end, the trip will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them both. 

In the meantime, Greta meets Ben Wilder, a Columbia history professor and a  Jack London aficionado who too, is quietly dealing with a personal tragedy, and between them, sparks fly.

“Author Smith has crafted a story about mothers and daughters, fathers and children, grief, happiness, and healing—and also about the music industry, hard work, dreams, and relationships both old and new. Readers of Evvie Drake Starts Over will enjoy this book. A well-told story with evocative prose that bare - and bears - the ragged emotions that accompany a journey to healing.”  (Kirkus Reviews) 

“Exploring themes of grief similar to Rebecca Serle's One Italian Summer (2022), but through the wholly different and beautiful setting of Alaska, Smith delivers a satisfying read for book clubs, adventure lovers, and musicians.” (Booklist)

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In Sarah Grunder Ruiz’s debut, Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships * * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), “a touching, hilarious rom-com” (Publishers Weekly), Florida yacht stewardess Jo Walker is desperate to complete the remaining items on her 30-by-30 bucket list.  So far she’d manage a condo on the beach, a job that allows her to travel the world, until a family tragedy turns her life upside down.  Then, as she was about to head to Europe to check off more items on the list, her two nieces show up at her doorstep unannounced, with plans to stay the summer. They also insist on helping Jo complete the list in time.  

Item #5 (kiss a stranger) leads Jo to Alex Hayes, who doesn't stay a stranger for long. But things get complicated when Jo meets Alex’s daughter Greyson, and then he turns up as the new chef on “her” yacht.

Ruiz captures the complexities of grief and guilt through many different lenses—loss of a parent, loss of a child, loss of a sibling, abandonment through death but also by choice—and tackles them all with sensitivity and skill. Readers are sure to fall for this heartwarming and emotional novel.” (Kirkus Reviews)

float_planFloat Plan, * YA author Trish Doller’s moving adult debut (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) follows a grieving woman who sets sail to find herself in this Caribbean island–hopping romance.

It has been 10 months since Anna Beck's fiancé, Ben Braithwaite, killed himself. As the date approaches for their Caribbean sailing trip, Anna impulsively goes to sea alone, in the sailboat he left her, intent to complete the itinerary they had so precisely planned together. But after a near collision Anna realizes she can't do it alone, so hires Keane Sullivan - ” a 30-year-old Long John Silver who's kind, sexy, ridiculously thoughtful, and goes to church on Sundays.” (Kirkus Reviews)  A former competitive sailor, now an amputee, Keane is also struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned.

“Doller expertly captures the tides of grief as Anna struggles with her sadness, guilt, and anger over Ben's death and confusion about her mounting feelings for the charming Keane…But it's not all gloom: the relationship between Anna and Keane is uplifting and convincing, and beautiful descriptions of their time at sea weave throughout. Doller's expert balance of the sweet and the serious make this touching romance a sure success.” (Publishers Weekly) 

BONUS FEATURE

accidental_odysseyAn Accidental Odyssey by K.C. Dyer,  a sequel to Eighty Days to Elsewhere. When an unexpected phone call derails a young woman's wedding plans, it sparks an epic adventure around the modern-day Mediterranean.

Shocking news sends Gianna Kostas off on a wild journey halfway around the world in pursuit of her ailing-and nearly estranged-father, a Classics professor. In Athens, she learned that he is determined to retrace Odysseus's famous voyage, a journey her father is in no condition to take alone. 

When an unexpected job offer helps seal the deal, the journey is on. However, as Gia adventures-and eats-her way around the Mediterranean, she discovers that confronting epic storms and ripped surfer dudes might be the easy part. Along the way, as she uncovers family secrets, finds heartbreak, and learns more about a certain archeologist with secrets of his own, Gia discovers that fairy-tale endings might be messy and complicated, but they can happen anywhere.

* *  = 2 starred reviews

* = Starred review

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Eli Neiburger Named Director of the Ann Arbor District Library

Tue, 03/22/2022 - 7:12pm by richretyi

After an extensive national search for a new Library Director, the Ann Arbor District Library Board of Trustees announced Tuesday (March 22) that Eli Neiburger has been named AADL Director, effective April 1.

Neiburger has been with the Ann Arbor District Library for nearly 25 years, holding positions ranging from Helpdesk Technician, Desktop Engineer, Systems Planner, Network Administrator, IT Manager, Associate Director, and most recently, AADL Deputy Director since 2014.

"We're privileged to have such talent internally, and I'm thrilled that Eli has formally accepted the Board's offer to become AADL's next Director," says AADL Board of Trustees President Jim Leija. "In the midst of a very competitive search process, Eli's vision, talents, expertise, and passion for AADL were unparalleled and made him our top choice candidate. The search showed Eli to be among the best library leaders in the country, and a perfect match for our community. He has been a dedicated member of AADL's staff since 1997, and has been absolutely essential to the transformation of AADL into the thriving, innovative organization that it is today. We look forward to working closely with him as he reintroduces himself to our community in this new role."

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #802, Ode to the Big Apple

Tue, 03/15/2022 - 12:39pm by muffy

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In a New York Minute *  (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), is the debut romance by Kate Spencer,  the award-winning co-host of the podcast Forever35

“We were two strangers from different corners of the city, who were not meant to meet, much less enjoy each other’s company. But that had all changed…” Interior designer Franny Doyle just got laid off from her corporate job.  Boarding the Q train with her hands-full, her dress was ripped to shreds by the subway door, exposing more than she wanted to share with half of lower Manhattan. Then a handsome stranger offered her his (Gucci!) suit jacket and walked away before she could thank him. However, their encounter was caught and went viral online. Tagged as #SubwayQTs, Franny and “Hot Suit” Hayes Montgomery III, became the newest social media sensation. 

Hoping to jump start her own design business, Franny agreed to appear on TV with Hayes. It was clear immediately that they have nothing in common. But somehow, in a city of 8 million people, they kept running into each other, and much to their surprise, they enjoyed each other’s company.

“Spencer weaves a laugh-out-loud, endearing tale of friendship, family, and love through the honesty of her characters–– Franny’s best friends, Lola and Cleo, are standouts––and captures exactly what it’s like to feel lost and found in the big city… Franny and Hayes both have their flaws, but their moments of self-realization are appreciated and believable, and the romantic tension and words unspoken will leave you visibly swooning page after page. A charming love story that speaks to all the welcome surprises that await in New York City.“ (KIrkus Reviews)

 * = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #801, Psychological Thriller Debuts

Sat, 02/26/2022 - 8:45am by muffy

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Greenwich Park *  by British journalist  Katherine Faulkner (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is a “twisty, fast-paced" debut thriller. (The Sunday Times, London)

Siblings Rory and Helen, now married to their best friends Daniel and Serene, are expecting.  When Rory, Serena and Daniel bailed on their first prenatal class, Helen met Rachel - a single mother-to-be who smokes, drinks, and was overly friendly. Nevertheless, Helen was drawn to her, being a bit lonely and insecure, allowing Rachel to insinuate herself into her life, and into their home. Then strange and troubling things started happening, and Helen began to suspect that it might be linked to a horrifying incident they witnessed as Cambridge students.

“There's a palpable sense of menace hanging over the story, which packs punch after shocking punch. An original and highly imaginative plot, combined with complex characters and a stunning conclusion, will shock even the most seasoned crime-fiction aficionado. An outstanding debut thriller. “ (Booklist)

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Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel, Never Saw Me Coming * by Vera Kurian (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) will appeal to fans of Gone Girl, Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series, and Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley novels.  

Eighteen-year-old psychopath Chloe Sevre is one of seven students at a D.C. university receiving free tuition in exchange for participating in a Multimethod Psychopathy Panel Study. When not partying, attending mandated counseling, or participating in psychological experiments, Chloe is plotting - to kill Will Bachman, a fellow student and a childhood friend who cruelly hurt her. 

Then two of the study participants are murdered. Suddenly, it's not just about the boy she wants to kill, but the hunter picking off members of her program one at a time.
“Excellent pacing, sprightly narrative voices, and judicious dabs of wry humor make this a highly entertaining tale. Kurian's refreshingly different slant on psychopathy marks her as a writer to watch.“ (Publishers Weekly) 

flicker_in_the_darkIn A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), when Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls in her small town of Breaux Bridge, LA were murdered. By the end of the summer, her father had confessed and is serving 6 consecutive life sentences.

Now Chloe, a 32-year-old medical psychologist living in Baton Rouge, LA, is planning her wedding.  To deal with anxiety from her childhood trauma, Chloe secretly self-medicates. As the 20th anniversary of the killings approaches, a girl went missing. Shortly after, Lacey Deckler, one of Chloe’s patients also disappeared leaving their appointment. Chloe becomes convinced that another killer lurks in her life, and she begins to suspect people closest to her. 

“A great addition to any mystery/psychological thriller collection, with an unforgettable character haunted by her past in an authentic Louisiana setting, which ups the creep factor.” (Library Journal)

 

BONUS FEATURE

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Readers might also want to check out  Catch Her When She Falls by Allison Buccola  (in eBook format, and also available in downloadable audiobook

10 years ago, high school senior Micah WIlkes’s boyfriend was convicted of murdering her best friend, Emily.  Now the owner of a popular coffee shop, Micah has moved on, happily coupled up with another old high school friend. 

But when reminders of her past begin appearing at her work and home, Micah begins to doubt what she really knows about Emily’s death. Questions raised on a true crime blog and in an online web sleuthing forum force her to reexamine her memories of that fateful night. 

* = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #800, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Sat, 02/12/2022 - 2:46pm by muffy

charm_offensiveShortlisted in the Romance genre of the 2021 ALA Reading List, The Charm Offensive * *  by Alison Cochrun (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is a “polished, smart, and delightful debut romance” (Booklist)

Dev Deshpande, the most successful producer in the long-running The Bachelor-style reality dating show Ever After, and a romantic at heart, always manages to script the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star, who only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. 

Awkward, anxious, and neurodivergent, Charlie is not your typical Prince Charming and has no idea how to date twenty women on national television. As Dev coaches Charlie through filming, their relationship deepens in secret.

“With its lush locales and LGBTQ and BIPOC representation, this novel shines, especially for readers underrepresented or underappreciated in mainstream romance. For fans of Kate Stayman-London's One To Watch and Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue. (Library Journal) 

arcThe Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is a smart, high concept love story that asks readers to consider their idea of a "perfect" relationship. For fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid, Sally Rooney, and Rebecca Serle

When 35 year-old Ursula Byrne, successful, witty, whip-smart, and dating-apps fatigued, confesses to her best friend architect Issa, that she is ready to throw in the towel after her most recent in a string of dating disasters. Then she was handed a business card by an eavesdropper at the Stake - their "nouveau feminist wellness club." Enter The Arc: a highly secretive, super-sophisticated matchmaking service that uses a complex series of emotional, psychological and physiological assessments to architect partnerships that will go the distance. 

Despite the hefty fee ($40,500) and after a lengthy process, Ursula was paired up with 42-year-old attorney Rafael Banks. They are immediately drawn to each other, and it appears that The Arc may have delivered what it promised. 

“First-time novelist Hoen draws on her experiences at glossy magazines and a women's workwear start-up to perform her agile trend-skewering as she details their romance and the complications that threaten it at an indulgently hypnotic length, until the twist, or arc, arrives. With giddy hilarity and stabs to the heart, Hoen's heady cocktail of satire and celebration is a delectable addition to the dating-app and matchmaking rom-com list.” (Booklist)

ramon_and_julieta Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), the first in the Love & Tacos series is a “fun Latinx riff on Romeo and Juliet.” (Publishers Weekly) 

Set in Barrio Logan, the heart of the San Diego's Latinx community, Ramon Montez and Julieta Campos met on the Day of the Dead. Julieta, a Michelin chef hopes to save her mother’s sea-to-table taqueria, now under threat from a gentrification proposal. Handsome, ambitious Ramón is the CEO and heir apparent to his family's highly successful chain of Mexican restaurants Taco King. To her horror, Julieta discovers that her new landlord is none other than the magnetic mariachi she hooked up with at the festival. Even worse, it was his father who stole her mother's taco recipe (and her heart) decades ago in Mexico. 

“With protests rising over the Taco King takeover in Barrios Logan, the star-crossed lovers must decide if their love is worth fighting for or just a recipe for disaster. Albertson's emphasis on Mexican cuisine puts a refreshing twist on the Shakespearean tragedy, and though Ramón and Julieta's dialogue is stiff at points, their chemistry is palpable. Romance fans will be pleased--but are advised not to read this one on an empty stomach.” (Publishers Weekly) 

 * * = 2 starred reviews

Looking for more ideas? Check out this Enemies to Lovers: The Romance Book List

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AADL Weather Hours Update: February 2 and 3

Wed, 02/02/2022 - 8:01am by richretyi

FEBRUARY 3: 8:00 AM
All locations open with regular hours, 10 AM to 8 PM! 

 

FEBRUARY 2: 2:00 PM

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #799

Wed, 01/26/2022 - 4:38pm by muffy

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The American Library Association (ALA) has selected The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) as the winner of the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, “(a)midst the alarming spikes of violent anti-Asian hate, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is a brilliantly fictionalized reclamation of Asian-American history.” 

Utah, 1869. After being sentenced to 10 years of forced labor building the Central Pacific Railroad, Ming Tsu escaped and is settling old scores. The orphaned son of Chinese immigrants, Ming Tsu was raised by the leader of a California crime syndicate and trained to be its enforcer. By his reckoning, he has killed some 200 men. Then Ming fell in love and eloped with Ada, daughter of a powerful railroad magnate. When they were caught, Ada was kidnapped and he was conscripted into service for the railroad. 

With revenge and Ada on his mind, Ming Tsu traveled towards California. En route he met a blind clairvoyant known as the prophet, and was hired as the guide and protector of a traveling miracle show featuring Proteus, a shape-shifter; the boy Hunter, who is deaf and mute but has the uncanny ability to project his voice into men's minds; and Hazel, the fireproof woman.

“Infused with magic realism, Lin's beautifully imagined first novel is an extraordinary epic with page-turning, often cinematic action that transcends the parameters of genre fiction. A brilliant debut, impossible to put down.” (Booklist)  

“Part revenge fantasy, part classic bloody tale of the Old West.” (New York Times Book Review)

BONUS FEATURE

how_much_of_these_hillsHow Much of These Hills Is Gold (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is a 2020 debut novel by author C. Pam Zhang. It was longlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Adult Fiction. It was named Best Books of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews and NPR and  "100 Notable Books of 2020” by The New York Times. 

At a mining camp in the late 1800s American West, 12-year-old Lucy and 11-year-old Sam woke to find their father dead. Discriminated against and destitute, the sisters fled on a stolen horse, looking for a place to bury their father properly, according to Chinese burial traditions. 

The narrative moves back and forth between their parents' backstory - their gold-fueled success and the loss of their mother; and forward five years, with Sam off adventuring as a man and Lucy acting as a companion to a wealthy white woman. “This moving tale of family, gold, and freedom rings with a truth that defies rosy preconceptions. The description of human and environmental degradation is balanced by shining characters who persevere greatly.” (Library Journal)  

Zhang, just 29, writes with precocious assurance as she confronts the inseparable connections between lies, liars, and secrets; the barriers of language; the impossible price of family bonds, and the everlasting longing to find home.” (Booklist)

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Playing with Math

Sat, 01/22/2022 - 2:04pm by mrajraspn08

We’ve been homeschooling with the Tools collection for a few months now. It’s easy to make science lessons with these tools, but what about math?

Miniature Ping Pong TableEven math can be fun with the Miniature Ping Pong Table. Explore physics concepts like force and mass–hit a ping pong ball lightly and see how far it goes, then hit it harder and see how far. Why do you think you got the results you did? Next try aiming for different spots–hitting to the left far corner, center, and right far corner, for example. How do you do this (where do you stand, do you have to hold the paddle differently or hit with different amounts of force), and why does it work?

Another way to practice these skills is with Skittles. Arrange the pins, then throw the ball lightly–how many pins do you knock down, and how many more when you throw it harder? How do things change when you mix up variables like which pin you aim at or how far apart you space the pins? Skittles are the ancestor of bowling–how would you change your throw if you were using a heavy bowling ball, or trying to send it all the way down a bowling lane? There are regulations to these games–why do you think these regulations are set the waySkittles game they are?

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Resources for Foster Parents

Sat, 01/22/2022 - 2:00pm by mrajraspn08

Being a foster parent can be incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly challenging. If this is a path that you’re considering, here are a few resources I wish I’d had as a foster parent.

The Foster Parenting Manual is a great start for anyone thinking about fostering. Chapters include information on training, placement, and working with the school, birth parents, and caseworkers, with each chapter breaking down the information in a quick, digestible format. To The End of June goes into further detail, with the story of the system given through the stories of the people involved. As a foster parent, I found that having information about how the system worked was incredibly helpful.

The Black Foster Youth HandbookIt’s also important to have support and knowledge for the child. The Black Foster Care Handbook is incredibly beautiful and important, written from a former foster child who aged out of the system to children in the system about embracing their heritage and finding healing and wholeness.

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The "Great Resignation" on the Bookshelf

Fri, 01/21/2022 - 3:04pm by howarde

Book cover of Laziness Does Not ExistBurnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski | How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell | Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman | Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price

Feeling tired? Exhaustion is always present in our society, especially for people who are overworked and under-paid. But over the past couple of years, an idea shockingly anathema to the American work ethic has gone mainstream: if you’re feeling lazy, burned out, or unaccomplished, perhaps the problem isn’t you, but the system. So many newly published or re-published books on this topic have appeared on best seller lists recently. The four listed above seem to go perfectly with frequent news articles I read about people walking off the job after having re-assessed their life priorities. None of these books offer “life hacks” to help you use your time or resources more efficiently. Rather, they all argue in one way or another that being human is an un-hackable condition. They don’t claim to make work, education, or childcare magically easier, but they aim to stop readers from beating themselves up for feeling tired and overwhelmed. Whether or not these ideas are here to stay, they are definitely of our moment.

Emily and Amelia Nagoski’s Burnout addresses the question of exhaustion and unrealistic expectations placed on women specifically; Jenny Odell in How to Do Nothing advocates unlatching our attention from an extractive economy in which we are considered consumers rather than people; Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks asks us to give up on the delusion that we can do everything so we can focus on spending our limited time meaningfully; and in Laziness Does Not Exist, Devon Price argues that pushing ourselves to exhaustion in the name of productivity is bound to backfire. Add them to your hold list and then maybe take a nap.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #798 “After you’ve worked in a hotel, there’s nothing about human nature you don’t know.” ~ Jennifer Clement

Thu, 01/13/2022 - 5:09pm by muffy

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The Maid * by Nita Prose (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is a clever, corking, crackling novel that twists and bends the expectations it sets up as it goes along.” (CrimeReads)

25 year-old Molly Gray is an exemplary maid at the Regency Grand, a boutique hotel in an unspecified city. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms to “a state of perfection.” But Molly is different - she struggles with social skills and interprets people literally. With the recent death of her gran, Molly lost the one person who could interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by. 

Then Molly finds the body of a hotel guest, Mr. Black, dead in his bed, and Mrs. Black, Giselle who befriended Molly, missing. The police investigation unearths a drug ring operating in the hotel, evidence points to Molly and she quickly becomes the lead suspect in the police investigation. 

“Molly is a likable, neurodivergent narrator in this outstanding debut. The character-rich mystery ends with several twists that will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant and other sympathetic heroines.” (Library Journal) 

seven_down

Seven Down by David Whitton (also in downloadable eBook) is at once a puzzle begging to be solved, satire, and literary experiment. The narrative is presented as transcripts of interviews of seven employees of Toronto's King William hotel, between March 7, 2022 and February 3, 2024 - after a failed assassination attempt on a high-profile guest. 

It turns out seven ordinary hotel employees: Summer Johnson (Reservations), Edwin Abubele (Engineering), Kathy Borsechke (Catering), Leonard Downey (Bellman), Rhonda Basiago (Security), Rodney deHoog (Hospitality), and Ivy Lew (Systems) have been sleeper agents for a shadowy organization, recruited over the course of 10 years.

Every morning they would check their Twitter account. Once the code word is issued, they would snap into action - handing off a room key card, creating a distraction in the lobby, retrieving a jar of chutney, etc. Though most of them are known to each other, they never suspected each other’s role in Operation Fear and Trembling, until it failed. Now the organization wants to find out who is at fault. 

“The transcripts of their interviews are comedic and satirical as each employee shares their perspective of what happened that day. The interviews also interestingly reveal the complexities and desperation that drove each employee to fulfill their mission. Whitton pens a debut that is both comedic and introspective, skewering the attempts of an organization trying to find out what went wrong with the group of people it tried so hard to manipulate.” (Booklist) 

For fans of Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People (recently made into a Netflix series) and Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library.

paradox_hiotelFans of Rob Hart would definitely want to look out for The Paradox Hotel * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) where time travelers check in to rest before their next flights to the past or present. Things start to get really weird when one of the hotel’s wealthy clients is found murdered, and only the hotel’s security manager can see the corpse. And with a blizzard surrounding the hotel and the timestream acting up, everyone’s trapped with a murderer on the loose.

 * = Starred review

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Lead Architect of Malletts Creek and Pittsfield Branches, Carl Luckenbach Dies at Age 86

Wed, 01/12/2022 - 12:37pm by richretyi

Lead architect of Malletts Creek and Pittsfield Branches, Carl Frederick Luckenbach died on January 9, 2022, at age 86. One of Carl’s most celebrated projects included the Pontiac Silverdome, which, when it was built, was the world's largest enclosed football stadium with the then-largest inflatable roof. 

Carl was also the lead architect for Malletts Creek Branch, which opened in 2004. A model of sustainable design, Malletts was designed to feature solar heating, natural daylight, a vegetated green roof, and naturally captured and filtered stormwater. Malletts was awarded the 2005 American Institute of Architects Michigan (AIA Michigan) Award for Sustainable Design.

Carl was also the lead architect on the construction of Pittsfield Branch, which opened in 2006.  The building was designed to incorporate solar heating, natural daylight, convection cooling, and renewable-resource materials. Both the building and the surrounding landscape capitalized on environmental principles, allowing the overall project to operate more in harmony with the ecosystem and the community in which it serves.

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Slow Cooking Resolutions

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 12:58pm by mrajraspn08

I don't do resolutions, but a few months ago, I did decide I wanted to cook some more. Cooking can be challenging, so I got a slow cooker to help ease into it. And obviously, I had to check out all the slow cooker cookbooks, right? To save you the time of going through all of them, too, here's a few of my favorite recipes from my favorite books that I've found.

5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker bookI'm all about simple, easy recipes that don't require an entire grocery trip, so 5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker is my go-to. Their lasagna and savory sweet potatoes are recipes I make several times a month.

I'm vegetarian, so Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker was a great resource. Their balsamic brussels sprouts are my favorite way to cook the vegetable. I'm also a huge fan of pairing butternut squash and grains, so butternut squash risotto was another hit.

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AADL Seeks Bids for Roof Replacement at the Downtown Library

Mon, 01/10/2022 - 12:34pm by eli

The Ann Arbor District Library is accepting bids for roof replacement at 343 S. 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Furnish all labor, material, insurance, permits, etc. required to complete the following for the project named above.

Scope of Work:

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The Tea Dragon Society

Sat, 01/08/2022 - 1:56pm by mrajraspn08

The Tea Dragon Society book coverEvery time I see The Tea Dragon Society, I think how much I like the art. But it's a kid's graphic novel. Surely it wouldn't be very interesting for an adult like me, right?

Well, a few months ago, I finally decided I was looking at it so much, I might as well read it. Best decision of the year! Besides its sweet--but not overly saccharine--art, the gentle story of a young blacksmith and the friends she meets as she learns about dying art of caring for tea dragons is like a warm hug for the soul. Though the books are short, I found myself quickly invested in each character. The best thing about these books, though, and which I haven't seen any other do nearly so well, is how effortlessly diverse the characters are. Various ethnicities, abilities, and gender identities (even non-binary!) are represented and integrated into the story without taking it over. I included the series in my entry for the AADL 2021 Staff Picks, but I loved it so much, I wanted to write a whole post about it. I only wish there were more!

 

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Take a Vacation to Your Own Homeschool!

Sat, 01/08/2022 - 9:09am by mrajraspn08

Tired of being cooped up inside and ready for vacation? No need to get your bags packed, this vacation takes place right in your homeschool!

Tokaido board gameWith Tokaido, you can see Japanese landmarks, take in the sights, and taste traditional foods. Use this as a jumpstart to learn more about the culture. Make a traditional Japanese meal yourself. Look up some of the terms used--for example, what is the story of the shokunin, and how do they differ from what we think of as artists? When did samurai exist, and what was their role in that time period? Next, pick another culture, and learn about their culture and history. Then create a whole new game based on that and invite your friends and family to play!

Ticket to Ride board gameNot interested in an international trip? Take a Ticket to Ride across America. At each stop, make up a story about the things you would do in each city. Add up how much money you've spent on your ride--maybe even create a character and give them a budget. If you want to incorporate history, pick a year, and as you go, work out how much you're spending in that year's money, figure out what's going on in each city at that time (the first automobile show opened in New York in 1900--what cars did you see there?). How do you think travel was different during that time?

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #797

Sat, 01/01/2022 - 3:05pm by muffy

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives…. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” ~ Howard Zinn

agatha_of_little_neonAgatha of Little Neon by National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree Claire Luchette (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) which the reviewer at Kirkus Reviews called “(a) charming and incisive debut.” 

When their Buffalo diocese went bankrupt and Mother Roberta decides to retire, Catholic sisters Frances, Mary Lucille, Therese, and narrator Agatha are transferred to a halfway house for people with chemical dependencies called Little Neon, “painted the "chemical, lurid" color of Mountain Dew” in Woonsocket RI, a former mill town now dotted with wind turbines. 

Cramped into an airless attire, the sisters care lovingly for their charges: jawless Tim Gary, Lawnmower Jill (who drove drunk too many times and now resorts to riding around town in her namesake), Horse, Baby, and Pete; and try to make a new life for themselves with community bible study group, art projects, and learning to roller skate in the garage. When the high school needs a geometry teacher, the sisters volunteer Agatha, by far the smartest among them, where for the first time in years she has to reckon all on her own with what she sees and feels.

“Employing short, clipped chapters and shimmering prose, Luchette garnishes each scene with tender and nuanced descriptions of longing and chastity, creating a lovely story of how cross-cultural exchange can foster hope and fruitful advancements. This is charming and remarkably thoughtful.” (Publishers Weekly) 

little_hopeA Little Hope by Ethan Joella (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), a deeply moving and life-affirming debut set in Wharton, Connecticut, that explores the intertwining lives of friends and neighbors, and celebrates the importance of small moments of connection and the ways that love and forgiveness can help us survive even the most difficult of life's challenges. 

Freddie and Greg Tyler seem to have it all: a successful career in finance, a lovely home and a beautiful daughter - until Greg was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an aggressive form of cancer, plunging them into despair and uncertainty, and turning Greg prickly, even with Alex Lionel, more of a father figure than boss. Freddie, who plans to return to writing fiction instead, takes a part-time job as a seamstress at a dry cleaner, owned by widow Darcy Crowley.

Alex Lionel, we learn, is riddled with guilt over a long-ago affair after the death of his son at 14, now hopes Kay, his wife of 50 years will agree to meet his grown illegitimate daughter, Iris. Darcy Crowley, brisk and efficient at work, continues to mourn her husband’s death and wishes to mend things with her son, addicted to pills and alcohol after a breakup with his girlfriend.

“The domino effect of neighbors' choices impact one another far more than they could ever imagine. A chance meeting blossoms into a new relationship, a tragic diagnosis inspires independence, a surprise visitor helps breach an emotional wall, a marriage's foundation becomes cracked in an instant. In his debut novel, Joella has an eye and ear for suburban pathos, highlighting tragedy and growth in equal parts… Loyal readers of Meg Wolitzer and Matthew Norman will gravitate to this immersive, illuminating novel.” (Booklist)

May your new year be filled with hope and kindness.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #796

Tue, 12/21/2021 - 3:39pm by muffy

Our annual gathering of some of the best short story collections, just in time for the shortest day of the year

haoHao : Stories * *  is the debut collection from three-time Pushcart Prize winner Chun Ye, and longlisted for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.  The title, drawn from the most common word in Chinese, an ubiquitous greeting, can be translated as good and is symbolized traditionally by a kneeling woman holding a child. 

“That iconic mother-and-child scene reveals multiple layers here. In the titular story "Hao," a mother struggles to stay alive for her four-year-old during the vicious Cultural Revolution. They play their nightly "word game," during which the mother traces characters on her daughter's back, literally inscribing her with precious knowledge. Repeatedly beaten down, she becomes the kneeling woman, wrapped around her child; to live another day to hold her is hao.” (Booklist) 

In the remaining 11 stories, the author examines the ways in which Chinese women in both China and the United States in the last three centuries, can be silenced as they grapple with sexism and racism, and how they find their own language to define their experience. In “Gold Mountain,” a young mother hides above a ransacked store during the San Francisco anti-Chinese riot of 1877. In “A Drawer,” an illiterate mother invents a language through drawing. And in “Stars,” a graduate student loses her ability to speak after a stroke, except for a single word - "hao”.

“Ancestral experiences echo throughout the dozen stories as Ye’s protagonists battle cyclical repressions and common losses: Feet are bound, children are lost, and husbands are absent, heedless, or worse.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

afterparties

Afterparties : Stories, * * *  a posthumous debut by Anthony Veasna So (1992–2020) is a New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice - "A deeply personal, frankly funny, illuminating portrait of furtive, meddling aunties, sweaty, bored adolescents and the plaintive search for survival that connects them. Its nine stories sketch a world of hidden histories, of longings past and present, and of a culture carving its way out of historical trauma. It is a testament to the burgeoning talent of So. . . . Electric, alive and transportive, Afterparties is a glimpse of a world rarely seen in literature, and of a talent gone too soon."

Centered around a tightly knit community of Cambodian-American immigrants in California’s Central Valley, grappling  with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family. “What makes the stories so startling is the characters’ ability to embrace life and all its messy beauty despite the darkness of the past. Characters have weddings, play badminton, fall in love, read Moby-Dick, and sometimes quip, surprisingly nonchalantly, about their national traumas—“there were no ice cubes in the genocide!” yells a father in “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts.” Some leave home (“the asshole of California,” one of them calls it in “Maly, Maly, Maly”); others want to stay, despite how little their region has to offer. “ (Publishers Weekly) 

im_not_hungryI'm Not Hungry But I Could Eat : Stories by Christopher Gonzalez “crackles with humor and tension in brilliantly crafted stories about food and relationships….Exploring the lives of bisexual and gay Puerto Rican men, these fifteen stories show a vulnerable, intimate world of yearning and desire. The stars of these narratives linger between living their truest selves and remaining in the wings, embarking on a journey of self-discovery to satisfy their hunger for companionship and belonging.” (Publishers Weekly)  

“The standout story "Better Than All That" accompanies the narrator on a life-changing night that begins in an Applebee's, winds through bars, and ends in painful reckonings with desire and the past. To his credit, Gonzalez does not shy away from the gross, the strange, or the uncomfortable. A sister dies. A breakup ruins lives. A hookup wants to be punched in the chest. A bedroom stool invites sex-watching while cereal-eating. Food is compellingly centered in the lives of these queer characters to provocative effect.” (Booklist) 

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* * = 2 starred reviews

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AADL Named Five Star Library for 14th Year in a Row

Wed, 12/15/2021 - 11:59am by richretyi

AADL Five Star Library in 2021

For the 14th year in a row, the Ann Arbor District Library earned five stars in Library Journal’s annual ratings of public libraries across the nation. AADL has been a five-star library since Library Journal created the America Star Libraries ratings in 2008.

LJ's ratings are based on per capita output measures based on FY19 data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services Public Library Survey. Seven measures determined total scores and star ratings:

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #795

Mon, 12/13/2021 - 9:22pm by muffy

dava_shastris_last_day

Longlisted for the 2021 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, Dava Shastri's Last Day (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by former entertainment reporter Kirthana Ramisetti, is a Good Morning America book club pick. It’s a thought-provoking and entertaining take on the “family dynamics and dysfunction” exacerbated by an unusual holiday gathering. 

It’s Christmas eve, 2044. 70 year-old billionaire and philanthropist Dava Shastri has gathered her family on her private island off the coast of Long Island. Recently diagnosed with inoperable cancer, she plans to leave this world on her own terms. Her four grown children were surprised by the news of her terminal illness but were shocked and dismayed when Dava decided to leak the news of her death early so she could read her own obituaries and examine her legacy.

Instead of articles lauding her philanthropic work, the media reveals two devastating secrets, throwing the household, especially the 4 siblings who were never close to begin with, into utter chaos. In the time she has left, Dava must come to terms with the decisions that have led to this moment and make peace with those closest to her.

“Told from a variety of perspectives, the story is reminiscent of Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You in that circumstances force adult children to spend several days together working through years of resentment and regret. The strength of the story lies in its depiction of a strong-willed matriarch who has doggedly pursued success while doing things her own way…A solid debut that will appeal to readers who enjoy quirky family stories with a focus on character over action.” (Kirkus Reviews)  

Readers might also enjoy The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, and Kathy Wang's Family Trust.

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Family Fun (and Learning?!?) Over the Holidays

Sat, 12/04/2021 - 3:44pm by mrajraspn08

December is the month of holidays, which means family, fun, and...school? Fortunately, keeping up on lessons can still be relaxing with puzzles and games from our Tools collection.

Game CacaoAs you eat holiday candy and sweets, you can play the game Cacao. But that's not chocolate...is it? Use this game as a starting point to think about how chocolate gets from the cacao plant to the yummy candy you're eating. As you establish workers and markets, you can learn the basics of how the market works. You want to store some of your cacao, but not too much, and why do you think some is worth more than others, anyway? You can even discuss history and culture while playing--there are sun worshipping tiles in the game, why and how do you think this culture (or others) worshipped the sun? And what is the history of plantations and how they were run?

Then, while you're wrapped up in your quilt in front of the fireplace, get out the game Patchwork. While looking at this game, I started researching quilts and found interesting and unexpected history and cultural lessons there. For example, you could look up the story quilts used by African American slaves, or the history of Amish quilting. Who knew there were so many variations? Once you've made your quilt, try to think if it looks like one of the quilts you've learned about. Does it tell a story? Was it used in a Native American ceremony?Patchwork game

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #794 - December

Thu, 12/02/2021 - 8:40pm by muffy

always_in_decemberAlways, in December * (eBook and also in downloadable audiobook) is Emily Stone’s “magnetic, bittersweet debut.” (Publishers Weekly)  

London publicist Josie Morgan has extra reasons to dread December this year. She has just broken up with long-term boyfriend Oliver who has been cheating on her with their office-mate. She is not looking forward to attending the office Christmas party alone. Since losing both of her parents on a snowy December night, for the past two decades she has swapped out letters to Santa with letters to them with the same three words: Missing you, always. But this year, her annual trip to the postbox is knocked off course by a bicycle collision with a handsome stranger who has his own reasons to dread the Christmas season. 

When architect Max Carter’s flight to New York is cancelled, the two wind up spending the holiday season together, enjoying a brief, intense affair, until Max disappears without saying goodbye.  Over the course of the next year, Max and Josie will find that fate continues to bring them together in places they’d never expect - a Brooklyn art gallery, a wedding in Scotland, and Josie’s childhood home. As it turns out, Max is harboring a secret that explains his reluctance to have a relationship…“the revelation will change Josie’s life forever. Romance fans should be prepared for a tearjerker ending to this poignant, well-plotted tale of once-in-a-life-time love. It’s as unforgettable as it is heart-wrenching. “ (Publishers Weekly)

Bringing to mind Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, it will also appeal to fans of Josie Silver’s One Day in DecemberJenny Bayliss’s The Twelve Dates of Christmas; and the Christmas novels by Jenny Colgan.  Readers might also want to check out Eight Perfect Hours, (after her debut novel Dear Emmie Blue) by Lia Louis (also in eBook and audiobook) for an enchanting, cozy read on a snowy night.

 * = Starred review

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For these, we are thankful : The Best of 2021

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 11:45am by muffy

onlinePublishers Weekly’s Best of 2021:

Top 10, Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Poetry, Romance, SF/Fantasy/Horror, Comics, Nonfiction, Religion, Lifestyle, Picture Books for Young Readers, Middle Grade, and Young Adult

Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2021:  

Best 100 Fiction, Mysteries and Thrillers, Book Club Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Fictional Families, Short Fiction, Fiction in Translation, Debut Fiction, Environmental Fiction, and the Best 2021 Writers to Discover

For the nonfiction readers, here are the Best 100 Nonfiction Books of 2021, Best Biographies, Best Memoirs, Best American History, Best Books About Being Black in America, Best Nature and Environment Books, Best Collections, Best Culture Books, Best Science Books, Best, Most Urgent Books of Current Affairs, Best 2021 Books To Stir Heated Debate

BookPage shares the Best (Literary) Fiction of 2021, Nonfiction, Mysteries and Suspense, RomanceScience Fiction & Fantasy, Young Adult, and Middle Grade & Chapter Books

The 2021 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books.

Who doesn't trust NPR ?  Here is a curated list of the 2021 Books We Love, recommendations from the NPR staff and trusted critics, covering a wide range of genres and reading preferences.

The New York Times announced the 100 Notable Books 0f 2021. And at 9 a.m. on November 30, the editors of The Book Review will announce The 10 Best Books of 2021 in a virtual event. Subscribers could RSVP here

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Warming Up with the Tools Collection

Tue, 11/09/2021 - 2:34pm by mrajraspn08

Thermal Leak DetectorIt’s getting cold out there! Our tools might not be able to make the weather warmer, but at least they can help you use the cold to your advantage in the classroom.

You can heat up the house, closing and opening doors to keep heat in or out, and kids can use a Thermal Leak Detector to see how the temperature rises and falls. Learn about the transfer of heat and energy and ask why doesn’t the heat stay in the room? What are some ways to keep it in, and how do they work? Once you have some ideas, why not try making some insulating clothes to keep the heat inside you? Try different fibers on a Drum Carder and think about how different cultures might make their clothes differently to fit their environment. Would someone living in the Arctic make similar clothes to someone living in Africa? Why not? If that doesn't cut it, get an Energy Meter and use it to see how much energy you use heating the house or room. Most of us know that to have more heat, you need more energy, but how does that work exactly? How does energy usage convert to heat? Drum Carder

Hopefully all this thinking has helped you start warming up!

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #793

Sun, 11/07/2021 - 3:19pm by muffy

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” ~ William Butler Yeats

snowflakeIf you are on the waitlist for Sally Rooney’s latest Beautiful World, Where Are You, may I suggest Snowflake * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by debut novelist Louise Nealon (Trinity College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast)?

Like Connell and Marianne in Normal People, 18 year-old Debbie White just earned herself a place at Trinity College Dublin. Commuting from her family’s dairy farm in rural County Kildare, Dublin, just forty minutes away, might well have been another world. Overwhelmed by the anonymity of big city life and feeling out of place with her fellow students, she considered giving up her spot, if it wasn’t for Uncle Billy’s encouragement

Debbie never knew her father, and besides all the chores on the farm, she does not want to burden Billy with the care of her mother Maeve, a skittish woman who takes to her bed for days on end, and who believes her dreams are prophecies. Almost miraculously, Debbie makes a new friend, Xanthe at college, and begins to thrive in her double life. Then a tragic accident on the farm upends the family’s equilibrium, and Debbie discovers her next steps may no longer be hers to choose.

“Nealon's well-crafted debut loses no charm or sweetness for all the difficult things it juggles, including mental health issues, death, grief, and even suicide. Packed with emotion, terrific dialogue, raw and real characters, and spiritual elements, like Debbie's and Mam's dreams that seem to predict the future, it also never feels overfull. A genuine, wise, and promising debut.” (Bookklist) 

“Louise Nealon’s Snowflake is one of the most heartwarming, honest and brilliant coming-of-age novels you will read this year.” (BookPage)

BONUS FEATURE

small_things_like_these

Small Things Like These * * by multi-award-winning Irish novelist Claire Keegan, is a “gorgeously textured novella” (Publishers Weekly), that “indicts the social culture that enabled Ireland's Magdalene Laundries, and brilliantly articulates a decent person's struggle of conscience.” (Library Journal)

It was the week before Christmas, the busiest season for New Ross coal and lumber merchant Bill Furlong when a morning delivery to the local convent deeply troubles him.  He finds a disheveled girl, barefoot and in rags, locked in the coal shed, begging to be taken away.  For years, there have been rumors about the "training school" at the convent being a front for free labor, using the young unwed mothers in a laundry service. 

This encounter forces Bill to confront both his past and the complicit silence of a town controlled by the Church.  Despite pleading from his wife Eileen to "stay on the right side of people," Bill makes a courageous choice on Christmas Eve that would rock the whole community. 

"Despite the brevity of the text, Furlong’s emotional state is fully rendered and deeply affecting. Keegan also carefully crafts a web of complicity around the convent’s activities that is believably mundane and all the more chilling for it. The Magdalen laundries, this novel implicitly argues, survived not only due to the cruelty of the people who ran them, but also because of the fear and selfishness of those who were willing to look aside because complicity was easier than resistance...A stunning feat of storytelling and moral clarity.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

* *  = 2 starred reviews

* = Starred review

 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #792, The Secret Life of a Tokyo Housewife

Sun, 10/31/2021 - 7:25pm by muffy

fault_linesFault Lines is London-based freelance journalist and travel writer Emily Itami’s “brilliant”(Booklist) debut novel. 

Set in contemporary Tokyo, on the surface Mizuki should be the envy of her peers - a beautiful apartment with a view of the city’s skyline, a successful husband, two adorable children, and fashionable friends, and yet, she often thinks about throwing herself off the high-rise balcony. In truth, Mizuki struggles with an absent and neglectful husband, demanding and ill-tempered children, and laments the choices she made. Once a promising jazz singer who spent some years in New York, she now takes odd assignments as tour guide and language/cultural interpreter for foreigners when she is not attending to the needs of her family. 

Then, on a rainy night, she meets Kiyoshi, a successful restaurateur. In him she finds an attentive listener, friendship and adventure. Together, they rediscovers the city -  tucked-away neighborhoods, the sweet shop like the one Mizuki's father once owned, French cafes and historic geisha homes, and a memorable stroll at cherry blossom time. Soon she finds herself living two lives. And it would take a natural catastrophe for Mizuki to realize that she must make a choice. 

“While a somewhat pat ending feels unworthy of the novel's provocative premise, Itami makes palpable Mizuki's loneliness and her need to feel seen. Itami's brave, frank portrayal of Japan's societal expectations of women is worth a look.” (Publishers Weekly)   Timely, in view of recent events and controversies in Japan.

Check out The New York Times Book Review.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #791, Magic, Mayhem and Metamorphosis

Mon, 10/25/2021 - 9:46pm by muffy

paybacks_a_witchPayback's a Witch * * *  by Lana Harper is the first in The Witches of Thistle series, (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) and her adult debut (after four YA novels written as Lana Popović), “a queer rom-com that bewitches from the very first page.”(Publishers Weekly) 

Emmy Harlow is heading home to Thistle Grove (IL) after fleeing with a broken heart almost a decade before. She plans to stay only long enough to carry out the familial duty of being her generation’s arbiter, overseeing the magical tournament that pits the 4 founding families against each other... that is, until she sets eyes on the devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov; reconnects with her childhood besties Linden Thorn; and witness first hand, the mechanization of the despicable sleazeball Gareth Blackmoor who broke her heart (and that of almost every other woman in town). 

As heir to the most powerful magical family in town, Gareth is favored to win the tournament but the three scorned women have something up their sleeves. As they team up and Emmy’s magic returns, she begins to wonder if leaving would mean giving up what she wants most.

“The love story between Talia and Emmy develops beautifully, but the true romance is with the town and the community. The bonds of both family and friendship shine from start to finish, and Harper balances the different clans and captures how, together, they make Thistle Grove the magical place that it is.“ (BookPage)

ex_hexEx Hex * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), is the first in a new Georgia-set paranormal romantic comedy series by bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling.

Nine years ago, little witch Vivi(enne) Jones fell hard for Rhys Penhallow, a Welsh exchange student whose family founded the town of Graves Glen and the local college, and promptly broke her heart when she found out he was engaged. Now he is back, reluctantly, to represent his family at the annual fall festival, and to recharge the town's ley lines, a necessity every 100 years. 

But as soon as he sets foot in the town, one calamity after another strikes Rhys. Could it be the curse the young and broken-hearted Vivi put on him, fueled by vodka, weepy music, bubble baths? Soon, mysterious affliction begins affecting the town as well, forcing Rhys and Vivi to get over their mutual mistrust, ignore their chemistry, and work together to break the curse before it kills everyone. 

“Sterling writes a fun, sexy romantic comedy with a compelling plot, fantastic worldbuilding, twists that give the story depth, and engaging primary and secondary characters. The novel wraps up plenty of loose ends, but readers will be eager for sequels.“ (Library Journal) 

nightbitchIn Nightbitch*  by Rachel Yoder (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), an unnamed  sleep-deprived “de-facto single mom of a demanding toddler (her tech husband travels for work every week), becomes convinced she's turning into a dog. As the dense patch of hair in the back of her neck grows thicker, and her canines look decidedly sharper, she is bewildered by her metamorphosis, and struggles to keep her alter-canine-identity secret. Online searches are no help, she seeks answers at her local library. There she finds the mysterious academic tome A Field Guide to Magical Women: A Mythical Ethnography which validates her experience and encourages her to embrace the freedom of her new animal nature. She also finds common ground with a group of other mommies involved in a multilevel-marketing scheme who may also be more than what they seem.

“Bursting with fury, loneliness, and vulgarity, Yoder's narrative revels in its deconstruction of the social script women and mothers are taught to follow, painstakingly reading between the lines to expose the cruel and downright ludicrous ways in which women are denied their personhood. An electric work by an ingenious new voice, this is one to devour.” (Publishers Weekly) 

Already optioned for film.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* = Starred review