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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #810 - Her Father's Secrets

Sun, 07/03/2022 - 7:08pm by muffy

the_catchThe Catch by Alison Fairbrother (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).

24 year-old Ellie Adler, a reporter at a D. C. news website, is devastated by her father’s sudden death at 52.  A minor poet, James Adler was charismatic and beguiling, father of 4 from three different marriages, he “celebrated holidays out of season” during summer custody.  Being the eldest and shares his writerly interest, Ellie always believes her to be his favorite, until at the reading of the will. Ellie learns that instead of leaving her his prized possession - a baseball that holds emotional resonance for them both, he has left it to a total stranger. Angry and hurt, Ellie sets out to track down this L. M. Taylor. It turned out not to be the mysterious woman lurking at the funeral.  

“Meanwhile, Ellie begins questioning her relationship with her boyfriend, an older, married man… She also parlays a work assignment into an investigation of (L. M.) Taylor's osprey conservation on the Chesapeake Bay to learn more about him,” (Publishers Weekly) and his relationship to her father. 

“The importance of the baseball is linked to James’s most famous poem, “The Catch.” And in both the poem and the novel, the title’s meaning mutates as the truth about the baseball, and therefore her father, continues to unfold. “ (The New York Times)

BONUS FEATURE

cartographersThe Cartographers * *  by Peng Shepherd (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “wildly imaginative and totally mind-bending in the best possible way.” (BookPage)

It has been seven years since cartographer Nell Young spoke to her father Dr. Daniel Young after he fired her from The Map Collections at the New York Public Library where he was director, inexplacably over a cheap gas station highway map. Her reputation tarnished, Nell spends her days reproducing historical maps for collectors. But when Daniel is found dead in his office after hours, Nell discovers the same “junk” map hidden in a secret compartment, meant for her to find.  Online searches reveal that this particular map of an area in Upstate New York is not only rare (numerous copies lost & destroyed under mysterious circumstances) but is also extremely valuable and sought-after. She suspects the map is somehow related to her father’s death. For help, Nell turns to her ex, a fellow cartographer who now works for a tech giant. Over time, Nell also connects with the talented group of cartographers who were friends of her father and long-dead mother. 

"Cleverly imagined.... With an elaborately realized plot, fanatic cartographers, maps with surreal powers generated by phantom settlements (intentional errors), and many-faceted suspense, Shepherd contrasts science and art, obsession and love in a bedazzling metaphysical tale of lost and found." (Booklist)

 “Readers will be hooked and find their imaginations sparking as they turn the pages…A shimmering delight, full of wonder, danger, and marvel. Suggest to readers of Erin Morgenstern, who has a similar ethos, and Natasha Pulley, who, like Shepherd, well knows how to end a story.” (Library Journal)

 * *  = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #809 - The Caper Novel

Thu, 06/23/2022 - 9:40pm by muffy

portrait_of_a_thief

Soon to be a Netflix series, Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li  (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), a cinematic Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell , is inspired by the true instances of Chinese antiquities vanishing from Western museums and collections, originally pilfered from China by British and French forces during the Second Opium War.

Art History senior Will Chen witnesses a brazen smash-and-grab at Harvard’s Art Museum. In the chaos, Will pockets a jade figurine, a slight-of-hand noticed by one of the thieves who leaves behind a business card. On offer: Wang Yuling, China's youngest billionaire will pay $50 million if Will would “recover” five Chinese zodiac fountainheads, looted from Beijing’s Old Summer Place from museums across the world. 

On his team: A con artist (and Will’s younger sister): Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang,a premed student with steady hands (whose father is an FBI agent specializes in art crime) just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Their meticulous planning pays off - their first heist, in Sweden, is a success but could they continue to count on their luck? 

"The thefts are engaging and surprising, and the narrative brims with international intrigue. Li, however, has delivered more than a straight thriller here, especially in the parts that depict the despair Will and his pals feel at being displaced, overlooked, underestimated and discriminated against. This is as much a novel as a reckoning."  (New York Times Book Review)

BONUS FEATURE

coounterfeit

Counterfeit : A Novel by Kirstin Chen (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook). For fans of Hustlers and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, it’s an addictive tale about the high/low world of counterfeit luxury handbag.

Ava Wong, the quintessential model minority on the surface, is falling apart.  A Stanford grad, corporate attorney, married to a Harvard-trained surgeon and mother of a toddler, actually hates practicing law. Her husband Oliver is overworked and often absent while her son Henry’s tantrums push her to the breaking point. Enter Winnie Fang, Ave’s Stanford roommate who turns up unexpectedly after 20 years. The shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, and proposes an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags, All she needs is a US citizen above suspicion, like Ave, to manage the business.  But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes, Ava is left to face the consequences. 

“Ava tells this story to a detective through her first-person perspective, explaining the whirlwind of events that led her into the mess. Chen's third novel is sly and subversive, an examination of motherhood and an incisive look at culture and class... A read-alike for Amelia Morris' Wildcat (2022), with a touch of crime.” (Booklist) 

 “A delightfully different caper novel with a Gone Girl–style plot twist.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #808

Tue, 06/14/2022 - 8:12pm by muffy

remarkably_bring_creatures

Remarkably Bright Creatures * * * by poet and short-story writer Shelby Van Pelt (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “an irresistibly wonderful, warm, funny, heartbreaking first novel…” (Library Journal)

70 year-old Tova Sullivan works the night shift at Puget Sound's Sowell Bay Aquarium cleaning. Recently widowed and still grieving the disappearance of her son Erik 30 years ago, the quiet, solitary work suits her. Then she crosses path (literally) and saves Marcellus, the aged giant Pacific octopus: a 60 lbs, three-hearts, nine-brains escape artist, hopelessly tangled up during one of his midnight snack runs, and so begins an unlikely friendship.

Meanwhile in Modesto, CA, de-banded rock musician and unemployed handyman Cam(eron) Cassmore finds a Sowell High school class ring and a photograph among his mother’s possessions, and heads to Sowell to confront the father he never knew. Broke and homeless, Cam talks his way into being Tova’s temporary replacement while she is sidelined by a work related injury. As Tova takes Cam under her wings over the cleaning routine, it is the ever observant Marcellus who sees the obvious, and it will take every trick up his eight-tentacled sleeves to unearth the truth for Tova and Cam before time runs out. 

“As Van Pelt’s zippy, fun-to-follow prose engages at every turn, readers will find themselves rooting for the many characters, hoping that they’ll find whatever it is they seek. Each character is profoundly human, with flaws and eccentricities crafted with care. But what makes Van Pelt’s novel most charming and joyful is the tender friendship between species, and the ways Tova and Marcellus make each other ever more remarkable and bright.” (BookPage)

For fans of My Octopus Teacher. winner of the 93rd Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature.  Watch a trailer.

 * * * = 3 starred reviews

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June Service Update

Tue, 06/14/2022 - 9:00am by richretyi

Bookable Meeting Rooms Are Back
Patrons can once again book any of AADL's meeting rooms with their Library card by visiting AADL's Book a Room page. Book any of our 10 available rooms for up to two hours per day, up to 12 times per calendar year, from tomorrow onward. Same-day bookings of one hour are available by calling or texting 734-327-4200 or claiming an empty meeting room on a first-come-first-served basis.

Tools Bookings Now Available
Patrons can now book tools for events big and small using AADL's Book Tool button, or by visiting our Book A Tool page. With your Library card, you can book a selection of AADL tools ranging from the Mega Tumble Tower and Giant Connect-4 to telescopes, projectors, PA systems, and more. Bookable tools have a pickup date of your choice, subject to availability, and can be made for up to one week. Tools Bookings can be placed one week to six months in advance. Booked tools can only be picked up and returned to the Downtown Library; you can use the free express parking spots on Fifth Avenue right outside the front door. Learn more here.

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AAATA Free Ride Weekends Resume June 11 for AADL's Summer Game

Mon, 06/06/2022 - 3:20pm by richretyi

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) and the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) are partnering this summer to provide Free Ride Weekends during the AADL Summer Game!

Every Saturday and Sunday from June 11 to August 28, Library cardholders can ride any of TheRide local fixed-route buses for free. All you need to do is show the driver your Library card when boarding the bus!

While riding, look for the AADL Summer Game code sign inside the bus to earn 1,000 points, which can be used to earn awesome Summer Game shop prizes. Each bus has the same code inside, so it’s easy to find! When you see the code, visit play.aadl.org, enter the code, and get 1,000 points.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #807

Tue, 05/31/2022 - 8:06am by muffy

murder_of_mr_wickhamThe Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray (pen name of YA author Amy Vincent) (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) will delight Agatha Christie-style country house mystery fans as well as Jane Austen devotees. 

The novel opens with a house party, thrown by Emma and Mr. Knightley (Emma) of Donwell Abbey. Among the guests are distant relatives and new acquaintances - Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), newly-wed Marianne and Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility), Anne and Captain Wentworth (Persuasion), and Fanny and Edmund Bertram (Mansfield Park). 

Very much not invited is Mr. Wickham, arriving at dinner along with a raging thunderstorm that good manners prevent the Knightleys from turning him out into the elements. This proves to be a great misfortune for Mr. Wickham who is soon found bludgeoned to death in Donwell Abbey’s gallery. Of course his sordid history with members of the house party makes for no end of suspects, and it falls to the two youngest guests to solve the mystery - young Juliet Tilney, the clever and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey), and the Darcys’ eldest son Jonathan, as they investigate covertly alongside the amiable but rather unimaginative magistrate, Frank Churchill (Emma) who is convinced that the murder must have been committed by a vagrant or a servant.

“One of the book's surprising elements is Gray's decision to focus on Jonathan Darcy's personal habits, which today would put the young man on the autism spectrum. It's Jonathan's ability to see things differently that allows him and Juliet to take the lead as the tale's sleuths.” (Booklist) 

“Ms. Gray’s ability to extrapolate not only the relationships of these storied couples and their offspring makes for an astonishingly convincing and tremendously entertaining pastiche. Most importantly, all her conclusions make sense given what we already know of the characters. Written elegantly, with a keen eye for Regency detail as well as a deep knowledge and affection for Ms. Austen’s oeuvre, this is an entirely plausible continuation of the Austen canon that stands as a worthwhile read in its own right.” (Criminal Element) 

Readers might want to compare and contrast this novel with Death Comes to Pemberley (2011) by P.D. James, where Mr. Wickham gets his comeuppance under very different circumstances.

For further reading, do check out the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries, a series by YA author Tirzah Price

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #806

Sat, 05/28/2022 - 1:11pm by muffy

sorrow_and_blissThe winner of the 2022 Women’s Prize in Fiction AND The British Book Awards’ Book of the Year in Fiction, Sorrow and Bliss, * *  Meg Mason’s  U.S. debut, (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), is at once “spiky, sharp, intriguingly dark, and tender.”

40-year-old Martha Friel, clever and beautiful, and once a brilliant writer, is now semi-employed, creating internet content. Once she lived in Paris but is now ensconced in an “executive estate”, a gated community in Oxford, where as far as she knows, she might be the only person without a PhD, a baby or both. And now that her husband Patrick decides to leave her, Martha is forced to return to her childhood home with her self-involved bohemian/artists parents where at 17, “a little bomb went off in her brain”, leaving her subject to rage, depression, suicidal impulses, and decades of what she sees as one useless medication after another. 

“Exploring the multifaceted hardships of mental illness and the frustrating inaccuracy of diagnoses, medications, and treatments, Sorrow and Bliss is darkly comic and deeply heartfelt. Much like the narrator of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Martha's voice is acerbic, witty, and raw…. Mason plots Martha's story in a nonlinear fashion, largely working backwards to highlight the highest and lowest points of her life.” (Booklist) 

“An incredibly funny and devastating debut. . . . enlivened, often, by a madcap energy. Yet it still manages to be sensitive and heartfelt, and to offer a nuanced portrayal of what it means to try to make amends and change, even when that involves 'start[ing] again from nothing.'” (The Guardian)

Will appeal to fans of Sally Rooney, Maria Semple, Lily King, and Ruth Hogan. Readers might also want to check out 10 Books To Read for Mental Health Awareness Month.

 * *  = 2 starred reviews

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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 

lessons_in_chemistry

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

department_of_rare_books

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)

violin_conspiracy

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

unsinkable_greta_james

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)

love_list_&_fancy_ships

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

greenwich_park

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)

never_swa_me_coming

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

catch_her_when_she_falls

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

thousand_crimes

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)

 * * * *  = 4 starred reviews

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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

maid

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.