News and Reviews
Fri, 07/30/2021 - 4:45pm by muffy
Songs in Ursa Major * by Emma Brodie (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) opens at the 1969 Bayleen Island Folk Festival. When headliner Jesse Reid was injured in a motorcycle crash, local band The Breakers, instead of being the opening act, took center stage. Led by Jane Quinn, a young singer/songwriter, they delivered the performance of a lifetime.
As Jesse recuperated on the island, nursed by Jane’s aunt Grace, the two met. Sensing Jane’s raw talent and naivete about the music industry, Jesse mentored her through the production of her first record, and when The Breakers began touring with Jesse’s band, they became involved, a relationship that Jane insisted on keeping secret. “She feared that, if the world knew her as Jesse’s love interest before she’d ever opened her mouth on a national stage, that was all she’d ever be.” Then she made a shocking discovery on tour about Jesse, Jane took off for home.
“(T)his sprawling novel follows Jane and Jesse through the epic highs and lows of their careers. Moving from New York to Los Angeles to Greece to the Grammys, then always back home to the island, Brodie's debut is a furious page-turner, meditating on the glittering beast of fame.” (Booklist)
“Inspired by the folk rock scene of the late '60s and early '70s, and reputedly by the relationship between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, this superbly crafted debut novel immerses readers in a story of family, love, and music from the first page. Brodie makes a point about the destructive force of drug abuse, and bears witness to unsavory business practices in the music industry. (Library Journal)
For fans of Daisy Jones & The Six.
* = Starred review
Fri, 07/23/2021 - 8:55pm by muffy
Once an aspiring artist, Amy Ashton now rescues and collects beautiful objects, online and from charity shops, ever since her boyfriend Tim and her best friend Chantel left her on the same day more than 10 years ago. These days, Amy is hardly able to move around under piles of trinkets and treasures, risking safety violation and eviction as she desperately try to keep the world at the door. But with the arrival of a young family next door, Amy’s carefully managed and guarded routine starts to unravel.
She finds herself charmed by the two young boys, one with a treasured collection of toy bulldozers (Amy could relate to THAT!) and their helpful sort-of single father. Then she discovers a ring hidden in a flower pot (the one Tim was going to propose with) and a sodden letter, thus throwing her into the role of amateur detective.
“Heartwarming and tender… an ideal read for anyone looking for a good-humored and uplifting story, but especially for those who enjoyed Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things.”(BookPage)
“Mystery lovers and fans of Liane Moriarty will also enjoy the quick-paced plot and perfectly timed reveals.” (Booklist)
Lizzie & Dante * * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Mary Bly is a “poignant, character-driven novel about living, loving, and looking mortality in the eye...Fans of emotional tearjerkers, of romance, or of authors Kristin Hannah and Elin Hilderbrand will not be able to put this down.” (Library Journal)
Shakespeare scholar Lizzie Delford is spending what would likely be her last summer, on the Island of Elba, at a luxurious seaside resort as a guest of her life-long friend Grey and his boyfriend, movie-star Rohan Das. Between catching sun and lavish parties, Lizzie is to help Rohan develop an unconventional script for Romeo and Juliet, his first movie as a director.
At the public beach, Lizzie is befriended by a bedraggled dog named Lulu, and her cantankerous owner Dante, a celebrated chef and a single father to precocious 12 year-old Etta.
“Bly, known best for the best-selling historical romances she writes as Eloisa James, deftly pivots to contemporary fiction with an emotional roller coaster of a novel that candidly explores such complicated subjects as sex and desire, love and loss, and family and friendship. Whether toothsomely describing Italian dishes, celebrating the natural beauty of Elba, or performing some literary dissection of Romeo and Juliet, Bly writes with a Prosecco-fizzy wit that is simply irresistible, but what will equally resonate with readers is her richly nuanced characters and their embrace of life in all its glorious messiness.” (Booklist)
* * = 2 starred reviews
* = Starred review
Fri, 07/09/2021 - 4:15pm by muffy
Angel & Hannah: A Novel in Verse by Ishle Yi Park (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook, performed by the author, first woman named poet laureate of Queens) reimagines Romeo and Juliet as an interracial couple in 1990s New York City.
Hannah, the daughter of Korean immigrants in Queens, meets Angel, a Puerto Rican boy in Brooklyn, at a quinceañera in the spring of 1993 and their “forbidden love instantly and wildly blooms along the Jackie Robinson Expressway.”
Told in seasons as opposed to Acts, in hip-hop sonnets and poems, we follow the blossoming of their young love to its gradual withering under the realities of poverty, racism, addiction, and the impacts of the AIDS epidemic.
“Park's intermingling of slang with fragments of Spanish and Korean electrify the free-verse lyrics that dance and slide across the pages. With an energy and attitude closer to Lin Manuel Miranda's In the Heights than West Side Story, the spoken-word style of Park's wildly creative rendition will entrance readers.” (Booklist)
A 15 year-old Louise Lovie Lloyd was abducted on her way home. A new fountain pen and ingenuity allowed her to escape and saved three other girls held in captivity. Immediately, she was hailed as Harlem's Hero by the press. Now a decade older, Louise waits tables at Maggie’s Cafe during the day and spends her nights drinking and dancing at the Zodiac, Harlem's hottest speakeasy, trying to put her notoriety and her preacher father’s disapproval behind her.
Then dead girls, elaborately groomed and posed begin turning up outside Maggie’s in the early hours. After an altercation with the police, Detective Theodore Gilbert makes her an offer: help solve the case or go to jail.
“Even as she has little choice, she doesn't know how dangerous a deal she has made until subsequent deaths bring the killer close. In this atmospheric debut mystery, with a sequel already planned, Afia ably tracks how Louise goes from reluctant hero to detective, infusing the transition with the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance.” (Booklist)
The Chosen and the Beautiful * * by Nghi Vo is “a fantastical reimagining of the world of The Great Gatsby.” (also in eBook and audiobook) from the point of view of Jordan Baker, the supposedly jaded and hollow golf pro on the sidelines of Fitzgerald's original novel. This is the author’s first full-length novel after 2 well-received novellas.
In Vo’s version, Jordan Baker, a Vietnamese adoptee brought up in the rarefied Louisville society, stays close friends with Daisy Buchanan. Though a constant fixture at some of the most exclusive parties in 1920s New York, she remains an accepted outsider, being queer and Asian. When Daisy sets Jordan up with her cousin, Nick Carraway, Jordan takes little notice of him until Jay Gatsby sets his eyes on Nick as well.
“Between magic-filled parties at Gatsby’s house and whispers of dark bargains, Jordan watches the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby unravel over the course of the summer, at the same time struggling with her own relationship to Daisy and eventually coming to question her place in their society. Vo has crafted a retelling that, in many ways, surpasses the original, adding logic and depth to characters’ motivations while still—uncannily—unspooling the familiar story. Astonishingly crafted, with luscious prose and appeal for both fans of the original and those who always felt The Great Gatsby missed the mark.” (Kirkus Reviews)
* * = 2 starred reviews
Fri, 06/25/2021 - 5:59pm by muffy
17 year-old Lenni Pettersson is a patient in the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. Though terminally ill, she is not ready to give up living, or asking questions. Curiosity leads her to the hospital’s almost-always empty chapel and she befriends the chaplain Father Arthur, but it is the 83-year-old purple-wearing, fruitcake-eating, dumpster-diving rebel Margot McCrea whom she meets at the hospital’s art class that sparks the recognition of a kindred spirit.
As they exchange stories, Lenni realizes that together, they have been alive for 100 yeas, and comes up with the idea of creating 100 paintings, a painting for every year of their lives. Moving back and forth in time, the narrative beautifully renders Margot's much-longer life of a lost baby, a missing husband, a complicated lifelong friendship with a woman and second chance at love with an astronomer while we learn about Lenni’s childhood in Sweden, and her mother’s mental illness.
“Holding all the pieces together are Lenni's exquisite honesty, humor, and curiosity at the life she won't live. Readers will know by page two that sharp-tongued, funny, brave Lenni will break their heart, and that they'll be all in for the ride. Rich for its cast of characters unique in their messiness, humanity, and kindness, debut author Cronin's masterpiece won't let go, long after the last page.” (Library Journal, reviewed by Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI)
Already optioned for film adaptation.
Thu, 06/17/2021 - 4:53pm by muffy
In the Company of Killers, * * * * is “an exceptional adventure thriller” (Publishers Weekly) by Bryan Christy (Law, UMich, and National Geographic's founder of Special Investigations) where elephants and humans alike are pawns in a global game of espionage.
In Samburu County, Kenya, American journalist Tom Klay’s latest counter-poaching assignment went terribly wrong. In an ambush, he was wounded while his trusted friend and guide Bernard Lolosoli was killed, and they had failed to document local crime kingpin Ras Botha killing a world-famous elephant for its massive tusks. Back at his DC office of The Sovereign, Tom finds that the magazine has been sold to Perseus Group, the largest supplier of paramilitary forces in the world, and that his CIA handler/mentor is retiring, unraveling his carefully constructed double life.
To settle the score and to take down Botha's smuggling empire, the CIA offers to send Tom to Johannesburg to team up with his one-time lover - South African prosecutor Hungry Khoza. But Tom soon discovers that he and Hungry are part of a larger, more lethal game, one that involves a ruthless mercenary and a global superpower. And everything he thought he knew about his work and his friends might have been a lie.
“Fans of both espionage and global crime thrillers will find a gem here: Klay is an introspective, flawed survivor who bends operative stereotypes, and the intersection of corporate greed, media, technology, and crime is chillingly current.” (Booklist)
“A riveting plot, complex characters, deep backstory, and an engrossing setting enhance this finely written novel about justice, personal responsibility, and saving the environment.” (Publishers Weekly)
Nigerian investigative psychologist Dr. Philip Taiwo, recently returned from the US to his hometown of Lagos, is called on by a prominent banker, whose son was one of three undergraduates "beaten, broken, and burnt alive" by an angry mob in the university town of Okriki, to investigate. The case known as the Okriki Three is highly controversial. Footage of the crime is widely shared on social media, and a number of people are arrested and tried, but no reasonable motive emerges.
With the help of his of loyal and streetwise driver, Chika,” Taiwo slowly, and cleverly, pulls the veil back on violent, secret societies of college-age men. “With alluring characters, including a chillingly psychotic villain; an original, many-faceted plot; and blazing psychological and social insights, Kayode's commanding and thought-provoking first crime novel launches a profoundly promising series.” (Booklist)
* * * * = 4 starred reviews
* = Starred review
Mon, 06/14/2021 - 5:09pm by samanthar
One of the latest children's books from Sleeping Bear Press is June Almeida, Virus Detective! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus. The clean illustrations and flowing biography of June, a timely yet little-known female virologist, make this a fascinating read.
June loved photography, especially taking photos of nature. She also loved reading - science fiction books were her favorite. When she was older, June found a job that combined two of her favorite things, science and photography, by working with electron microscopes. Through this work, June was able to photograph antibodies and viruses on a microscopic level, which helped scientists find and identify viruses. In 1964, scientists around the world found a new and unique virus that no one had seen before. It was through June’s photographs that a clear picture emerged of the dots surrounding the virus, which looked like a crown - or corona in Latin! They decided to name it coronavirus.
Mon, 06/07/2021 - 10:52am by mrajraspn08
The best thing I did while pregnant was hire a doula. She was a huge help during and after my birth and helped with a difficult time. I was thrilled when I found out that there are doulas for other major life events!
There are doulas for birth, but what about when a pregnancy ends another way, through miscarriage, adoption, or abortion? The Doulas! points out how challenging this can be, and how little support there is for those going through such events. With personal narratives and medical experience, The Doulas offers a starting place for an expansion of doula care, with an added bonus of being gender-inclusive.
Caring for the Dying addresses doula work from the other end of life. It provides guidance for the dying and their loved ones from reminiscing on the life lived, creating ritual around the final days, and working with loved ones to process the death that has occurred. If hiring a doula isn’t possible, reading through this book for suggestions and counsel may help to make a trying time just a little bit easier.
Fri, 06/04/2021 - 8:41am by muffy
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World,* * Laura Imai Messina’s English-language debut (translated from the Italian by Lucy Rand) is an international bestseller (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook). It is inspired by the author’s visit to a wind phone (風の電話, kaze no denwa) in Otsuchi, (Iwate Prefecture, in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan), a rural town decimated by the 2011 tsunami.
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake off the coast of Japan caused a tsunami that reached miles inland, killing an estimated 15,897 people, among them Yui’s mother and 3-year-old daughter. Relocated to Tokyo, she makes the arduous journey every month to the garden created by artist Itaru Sasaki where visitors could hold one-way conversations with deceased loved ones in an old disused telephone booth. But once there, radio host Yui finds that she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver.
Instead she finds Tokyo surgeon Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of her mother’s death. Over time, they form a deep connection to the place, to each other, and others who make use of the phone.
“This wonderful, gentle, hopeful story leads the reader through the beginning of Yui and Takeshi’s 30 years together. Through their sorrow and grief, they learn how to let happiness, hope, joy, and laughter reside side by side with their memories of loss. It is a beautifully written book. Messina, an Italian who has lived in Tokyo for 15 years, writes in a way that’s evocative of Kazuo Ishiguro but in an opposite way: While Ishiguro leads with comfort and hints at the sadness to come, Messina offers grief and sadness first but offers the reader a trail of breadcrumbs toward future happiness. A must-read. “ (Kirkus Reviews)
Since it has been opened to the public, the wind phone has received over 30,000 visitors. A number of replicas (including one in Aspen Mountain, Colorado to commemorate persons who died in the COVID-19 pandemic) have been constructed around the world. It is the inspiration for several novels and films, including The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden, a 2019 picture book by Canadian writer Heather Smith.
* * = 2 starred reviews
Mon, 05/31/2021 - 10:55am by mrajraspn08
When I was pregnant, there was little to no books for me. I could read books about pregnancy, but it was always “mom” this, “mom” that. This is great for most people, but for those who don’t identify as a mom, they’re left out of the conversation during an important time in their life. This prompted me to write a fictional account of my own experience as trans person trying to start a family, navigating everything from the foster care system to pregnancy, just to have something out there for people like me.
But last year brought us Why Did No One Tell Me This?, a gender inclusive pregnancy book. Doulas and reproductive specialists answer pregnancy questions in a funny and relatable way that anyone would appreciate, but the use of terms like “parent” and “chestfeeding” makes it a veritable lifesaver for those outside or on the other end of the binary. Besides providing information for the entire pregnancy journey, it’s also just incredibly affirming, however you view your body and identity. It’s exciting not just to have a book for trans and queer people’s pregnancies, but to have one like this!
Fri, 05/28/2021 - 8:19am by muffy
“May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true. May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong. May you stay forever young.” ~ Bob Dylan
Set in the Wisconsin's Northwoods where the author grew up, Raft of Stars * (also available in eBook and audiobook) by Andrew Graff is the adventures of 10-year-olds Fischer "Fish" Branson and Dale "Bread" Breadwin the summer of 1994. Fearing that he had killed Bread’s abusive father with his own gun, Fish and Bread fled into the woods around Claypot, WI. With limited supplies and great ingenuity, the pair crafted a raft to carry them down the river. Their destination - the armory where Fish’s father was a decorated soldier.
Cal, the new sheriff in town, and Fish’s grandfather Teddy, with whom he spent his summers took off after them on horseback, trying to intercept them before the deadly rapids, while Fish's mother Miranda, and Tiffany, a purple-haired gas station attendant who found a rare connection with Cal, were making their way in a canoe to reach the boys.
“By the time these six converge at a perilous waterfall, each has come to know more about themselves and each other. Though the resolution yields few surprises, Graff depicts the harsh Northwoods setting and his misfit characters' inner lives with equal skill. The dynamic quest narrative offers plenty of rich moments.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Reminiscent of stories like Stand By Me and Have You Seen Luis Velez?, Graff's debut novel will enchant fans of Chris Cleave and Melissa Bank. Graff's narrative voice is lyrical, with a Southern Gothic edge that fits surprisingly well with the Wisconsin Northwoods setting. Exploring the necessity of the stories we tell ourselves to survive, Raft of Stars is a clever, compelling coming-of-age tale.“ (Booklist)
In The Music of Bees * (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Eileen Garvin, each of the 26 chapters opens with an observation from L. L. Langstroth, American apiarist, considered to be the father of American beekeeping. It tells the story of how three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town save the local honeybee population.
44 year-old widow Alice Holtzman, a hobbyist beekeeper in Hood River, Ore. is driving home at twilight with a truck-load of new beehives when distracted, nearly runs over 18 year-old Jake Stevenson in his wheelchair. Left paraplegic from an accident at a graduation party, and with his music scholarship gone, Jake rides his chair all over town to escape his abusive father. Charmed by Jake’s sincere interest in her bees, Alice invites Jake to stay at her farm.
To extend her hive operation, Alice hires Harry Stokes, a 25 year-old with little option and no family for some carpentry work, and ends up offering him the use of the bunkhouse, and soon the trio find themselves friends as well as family. As Alice toils at her underappreciated job at the county planning department, Jake increasingly takes on the beekeeping responsibilities, and is the first to notice that something is killing the bees. They soon identify the threat - the pesticide conglomerate SupraGro, openly courting the local orchards with free products.
“Both buoyant and bittersweet, Garvin's impressive first novel, a luscious paean to the bonds of friendship and limitations of family, is the kind of comforting yet thought-provoking tale that will appeal to fans of Anne Tyler and Sue Miller.” (Booklist)
* = Starred review
Tue, 05/25/2021 - 10:00am by josie
The Ann Arbor District Library plans for a full reopening of all five locations on Monday, July 12 at noon. The Library's plans are intended to fully reopen the system with as few restrictions as possible, while also minimizing the chance of future re-closures. Library staff are already working to transition library spaces back to a browsing configuration, and preparing collections, services and software for the July reopening.
- All Locations now open for browsing & seating Noon - 8 PM, 7 days a week
Fri, 05/21/2021 - 12:12am by muffy
Australian memoirist (One Italian Summer, 2017) Pip Williams, based her debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words * (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook) on her original research in the Oxford English Dictionary archives. In her Author’s Notes, Williams laments that she was only able to identify mostly the male scholars who compiled the first edition of the OED, thus making it a rather “flawed and gendered text”. This novel is her attempt to acknowledge the contributions of the largely unnamed women lexicographers.
Work began on the Dictionary in the 1850s. By the 1880s, James A. H. Murray, a Scottish schoolmaster was its editor, working out of the “Scriptorium,” a garden shed in Oxford with a group of lexicographers, among them, widower Harry Nicholl whose young daughter, Esme was allowed to spend her days under the sorting table, listening and observing the team at work.
One day a slip of paper containing the word “bondmaid” landed in Esme’s lap. Believing it to be discarded, she hid it in a wooden chest. Over time, with the help of Lizzie, the Murrays’ maid and women at the local market, Esme collected words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences, deemed unworthy and too objectionable by the OED gatekeepers, words she hoped to publish in her own dictionary - the Dictionary of Lost Words.
The narratives parallel the women’s suffrage movement in England as Esme gradually became a trusted member of the OED team while she continued to collect words in her wooden chest. “The looming specter of World War I lends tension to Esme’s personal saga while a disparate cast of secondary characters adds pathos and depth.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Enchanting, sorrowful, and wonderfully written, the book is a one-of-a-kind celebration of language and its importance in our lives.” (Library Journal)
“A lexicographer's dream of a novel, this is a lovely book to get lost in, an imaginative love letter to dictionaries.” (Booklist)
* = Starred review
Wed, 05/19/2021 - 3:17pm by mrajraspn08
I didn't see Bird Box for a long time, until I saw the book was in the horror section, and I realized it was completely different than I had thought. I checked out the book and finished it in twenty-four hours--I was so spooked, I couldn't just set it down! Since seeing the movie, I've recommended this book to several people who said they weren't impressed with it, and if that's you, or if you did like the movie, read the book! Malernan is excellent at pacing, with a slow build that has you on the edge of your seat, and his specialty is a horror you can't see--literally. Bird Box features a horror that will drive you to insanity with even the quickest glance, and his other novels are similar. This only increases the terror, because how do you fight a monster you can't even look at?
I was so fascinated and terrified (and I'm hard to scare!) by Bird Box that I proceeded to read all of Malernan's work--in a week and loved all of them. If you haven't read it yet, clear your weekend and check it out.
Fri, 05/14/2021 - 9:27pm by muffy
This memorable debut is structured as an oral history project, documenting Opal & Nev - an avant-garde rock duo who found a certain cult following in the 1970s, in anticipation of their reunion tour after an absence of decades.
Sunny Shelton, the first African American woman editor of a music magazine, researches and interviews not only the principal characters, but also family, friends, managers, and critics of the pair. Her passion is fueled by a personal agenda - her father, Jimmy, was a drummer for the duo and was having an affair with Opal when he was killed at a showcase concert that was supposed to rock them to stardom.
Opal Jewel, a fiercely independent young woman from Detroit, caught the eye of Nev(ille) Charles, an aspiring British singer/songwriter at a NYC open mic. Bald, black, outrageously stylish, and radical in her politics, her voice and energy impressed. Leaving behind family and the 9-5 job at Michigan Bell, she took up Nev’s offer to make rock music together.
As the reunion tour approaches, Sunny discovers conflicting versions of what actually happened on that fateful night. A well-published photo captured Opal blanketed in a Confederate flag as Nev carried her away, while presumably, Jimmy was left to face a riotous crowd.
“The novel is book-ended by an equally violent reunion that confirms a shocking secret, and Opal proves herself the champion of the "marginalized, bullied, discriminated against." Walton pumps up the volume with a fresh angle on systemic racism and freedom of expression. This is a firecracker.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is itself anything but "regular." A deep dive into the recent past, it also simultaneously manages to be a rumination on up-to-the-minute themes like cultural appropriation in music, and the limits of white allyship. It's the kind of overwhelming novel that, like a polyphonic double album back in the day, readers might want to experience more than once to let all the notes sink in.” ~ Maureen Corrigan, NPR
* * * = 3 starred reviews
Wed, 05/12/2021 - 3:52pm by ivanamalia
GRIS is a single-player adventure game created by Spanish developer, Nomada Studios. Widely regarded as one of the best independent games released in 2018, GRIS' story and artistic impact have become increasingly relevant in light of some hardships of the last year.
GRIS follows the journey of a girl navigating loss in a cold and lonely achromatic world. Colors, sound, and mobility are stripped away from the first second in the game, and the player is, quite literally, thrown into the world with little to no instruction. It immediately evokes a feeling of confusion as you try to understand how to control your character and what exactly your purpose is in order to progress through the game.
As you explore, you are met with a range of puzzles, obstacles, antagonists, and friends as you slowly bring color and life back into your world. Visual, auditory, and gameplay elements are introduced and stripped away again, representing grief as a process of ebb and flow, of progress and relapse.
Wed, 05/12/2021 - 2:38pm by marianaroo
If names like Eliud Kipchoge, Kara Goucher, Paula Radcliffe and Ryan Hall are familiar to you, this might be the book for you. As a former long distance runner myself, I’ve followed famous marathoners for years. But if this is not your thing and you enjoy a great detective story this might also be the book for you. Win at All Costs presents a look behind the scenes at the Nike Oregon Project and its head coach, Alberto Salazar, who is accused of trafficking and administering banned performance-enhancing substances to his athletes. Here you have one of the most powerful companies in the world of sports, a famous coach, olympians in search of excellence, FBI, whistleblowers, medical team, all of these characters have a role to play in this thrilling and well researched book by sports journalist Matt Hart. An unexpected excellent read.
Fri, 05/07/2021 - 7:18pm by marianaroo
I first encountered Suleika Jaouad years ago looking for information on cancer. She wrote a blog from her hospital bed on her experience about being a young adult with cancer, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia at 22 years old and was receiving chemotherapy and later a bone marrow transplant. I remember eagerly awaiting for her blog, published every week on the Well section of the New York Times. This beautifully written memoir is the result of that journey. It is an honest recount of her life, her experiences and thoughts in the kingdom of sickness and in the kingdom of wellness. The title of this memoir comes from Susan Sontag's book Illness as Metaphor: "Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place,". I devoured Jaouad's book in two days, gripping read all the way to the end. It challenges us to self-reflect.
Fri, 05/07/2021 - 12:41pm by muffy
Voted one of the most addictive books of 2021 (Kirkus Reviews) , Who is Maud Dixon? * * * (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook), Alexandra Andrews’s “devilishly plotted debut” (Publishers’ Weekly) is a stylish psychological thriller - twisty, cinematic and compulsively readable, already optioned for film.
Florence Darrow, an aspiring writer, is fired from her low-level publishing job. Having turned her back on her single mother and the hardscrabble Florida upbringing, she is too glad to accept a job as a live-in assistant to the enigmatic and publicity-shy novelist known as Maud Dixon. Helen Wilcox - the real Maud Dixon, whose debut rocketed to the top of the chart, turns out to be only a few years older than Florence. Though secretive and prickly at times, Helen seems to trust Florence, and turns over management of her personal and professional accounts. Then rather out of the blue, proposes a research trip to Morocco where her next novel is set.
Things become complicated when Florence wakes up in a hospital after a car accident. Being addressed as Madame Wilcox, and there is no sign of Helen (dead or alive), leaves Florence to wonder if she could get the publishing career (after all, SHE has been typing up Helen's drafts) and the life she wants ($3 million in the bank and the glorious house in the Catskills) by simply becoming Maud Dixon.
“At every diabolical twist and turn, Andrews' impish sense of humor peeks around the corner to jack up the fun….Terrific characters, vivid settings, and a deliciously dastardly, cunningly constructed plot.” (Kirkus Reviews)
* * * = 3 starred reviews
Wed, 05/05/2021 - 1:34am by copelands
Simply put, Hello Earth!: Poems to Our Planet is just a wonderful read. Author Joyce Sidman writes her love letter to our planet through poems that observe and meditate on all of the Earth’s splendor. The poems are a perfect combination with illustrator Miren Asiain Lora’s organic and compelling work. Throughout, they reflect on the abundant features and encourage us to celebrate our own corner of the world. Sidman writes of Earth as a person, using personification to imagine how it would respond to her words. She celebrates its beauty, questions our conservation as humans, and reflects on how it has sustained us over time through its resources. Starlight, jungles, snow, and rainstorms. Mountains, deserts, forests, and seas. There’s a poem for many of these wonders. Additionally, fun facts for each of the poems are listed where kids can learn about the Earth’s age, size, history and more. Did you know our bodies are made up of 60% water? Or, that we as humans live at the surface of the Earth inside the crust: a thin, cool layer? Readers can also learn how to preserve the Earth through recycling and reducing waste. After reading this book, it’s almost impossible not to have a greater appreciation for our magnificent planet. Hello Earth! is a great combination of poetry and education that will inspire and motivate everyone to celebrate the wonder of nature and science.
Thu, 04/29/2021 - 10:00pm by LawsonB
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is an edited book of journaling about what could be considered a dissertation about a documentary about a house that's larger on the inside than it is on the outside. It's colorful, and I mean that literally, it's printed as a full-color version; the word house is always blue, for example.
Thu, 04/29/2021 - 5:46pm by muffy
Brood * (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Jackie Polzin (Brown, Iowa Writers' Workshop) is “a wonderfully written first novel, full of nuance and humor and strangeness, whose unnamed narrator lives in the Camden neighborhood of Minneapolis and is married to an economist,” wrote Elizabeth McCracker in her New York Times Book Review, “Brood” is a perfectly titled book, a word that can be thing or an action, can refer to people or single chickens or multiple chickens or children. The reader turns the title over and over, to see all the meanings it accrues.”
The novel opens with the chickens - Gam Gam, Miss Hennepin County, Gloria and Darkness — nesting in a repurposed dollhouse coop in the backyard of our unnamed narrator, who heroically tries to keep her small brood alive despite the seemingly endless challenges. Now with Percy, the narrator’s economist husband, up for professorship at a prestigious university on the West Coast, she needs to find them a home. As Percy is preoccupied with their future, our narrator turns her gaze on their past - her job cleaning houses; her friend Helen, a real estate agent and new mother; her recent miscarriage - likely their last hope of a family; and how the chickens have become "an endless source of entertainment and worry.”
“Calling to mind the cerebral works of Olivia Laing and Jenny Offill, Polzin’s story has a quiet intensity that churns throughout. It’s in the tension she builds within her narrator’s isolated world, navigating the paradox of domestic intimacy, the comfort and terror it sows, and the unexpected shapes motherhood can take. There are no heart-quickening plot twists or climactic endings here, and that’s the beauty of Polzin’s writing. It doesn’t need either to move you. In Polzin's deft hands, the mundane is an endless source of wonder. A moving meditation on loss, solitude, and the hope that can rise from both.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Now, a change of pace…
The Chicken Sisters * (eBook and also available in downloadable audiobook) by K. J. Dell’Antonia where two chicken shacks and a food war will throw three generations of the citizens of Merinac, Kansas into chaos. Oh, did I forget to mention that $100,000 is at stake?
For a century, Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s both claim to serve the best fried chicken in the state. Founded by the namesake sisters, the legendary feud continues to pit the Moores against the Pogociellos. 35 year-old widowed Amanda Moore grew up working for her mom at Mimi’s before scandalously marrying Frank Pogociello and now manages the front-of-house at Frannie’s. Hoping to bring new business to their small town, Amanda applies to Food Wars, the reality TV restaurant competition that promises $100,000 to the winner… as long as she could bring Mimi’s (and her estranged mother Barbara and the dishy new cook, Andy) on board.
What Amanda could not predict is the arrival of Mae, her older sister - a Marie Kondo–eqsue professional organizer with a television show called Sparkling, and a secret agenda.
“Dell’Antonia writes convincingly and sympathetically about complicated family relationships, giving Mae and Amanda each relatable flaws. The Food Wars scenes are a fun peek behind the curtain of the reality TV world, and the small-town warmth of Merinac is comfortingly quirky. A charming and satisfying story about family bonds that will make meat eaters everywhere crave fried chicken.” (Kirkus Reviews)
* = Starred review
Sat, 04/24/2021 - 5:19pm by marianaroo
Consent is a memoir by Vanessa Springora, a French editor, publisher, and filmmaker. She is a survivor of sexual assault and her story is testament to the traumatic experiences she had with the famous French writer, Gabriel Matzneff.
This beautifully written memoir is not for the faint of heart. Although tastefully written, the novel can be difficult to read at times. It is a chilling account of a vulnerable young girl and the extent to which a predator will go in his grooming process. Le Consentement was a bestseller in France and caused an uproar, so much so, that the government changed the age of consent to 15. It is unbelieve to learn that up to this year France did not have a fixed age of consent.
This book gives a voice to the victim who was silent for decades. Her predator by being a famous writer was well known in literary circles and even published books detailing his affairs. The triumph of this book is to understand the ambivalence, denial, hope and finally acceptance of being a victim and in doing so, and writing about it, opening a dialog to create a spectacular fall down of her perpetrator. In the era of #MeToo movement. This novel is a must. Bravo!
Fri, 04/23/2021 - 10:50am by mrajraspn08
With recent talks about the federal deficit and now increasing taxes, I thought I would do what I do and conduct some research. I'll start this by saying I am not a numbers person and expected to go through about 5 minutes of boring tax and deficit information, but instead I lucked out. A Fine Mess presents the US tax laws in a way that acknowledges just how crazy and difficult to understand they are. In fact, that's what the whole book is about. It compares us tax law with that of other countries, pointing out where we do it wrong and where we do it right. It promises no solutions, but makes informed suggestions. The only downside to this book is when you sit with the information and realize how widespread the issues mentioned are (Japan's taxes take a few minutes and are done by their version of the IRS, and a few simple tax adjustments that are unpopular on the surface would actually save money for you and the country). Whether you enjoy this kind of topic or not, this is still very much worth a read.
Mon, 04/19/2021 - 10:16pm by LawsonB
There are few series of children's books that can be enjoyed by any age group, but nonetheless the do exist. These three series are ones that I still enjoy now that I'm an adult, and they'll fill anyone with similar nostalgia they give me.
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall are about the adventures of the Penderwick sisters, each book highlighting a different aspect of growing up and clinging to childhood. The series also delves into other issues such as loss and finding self confidence.
Thu, 04/15/2021 - 3:12pm by muffy
In this Modern Love meets This American Life, The Ex Talk * * * (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is YA author Rachel Lynn Solomon’s “exceptional adult debut” (Publishers Weekly), “a sizzling rivals-to-lovers rom-com.” (Booklist)
29 years-old Shay Goldstein, a producer at Pacific Public Radio in Seattle for 10 years, loves her job but lately, she seems to be at loggerheads with their new hire, Dominic Yun. With a freshly minted master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism (which he never fails to mention in all conversations), Dominic immediately impresses the bosses with a big scoop on a City Hall scandal. With ratings down and the station struggling, in order to save their jobs, Shay pitches a concept - a weekly talk show where exes give relationship advice, live. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other, never mind they have never dated.
“As the show skyrockets in popularity, the fake exes become real friends, but a growing attraction might spell disaster. Shay and Dominic are brought to life with multilayered backstories...Witty dialogue meets steamy slow-burn tension while fun romance tropes (fake dating! there’s only one bed!) take a refreshing turn by making Dominic the less sexually experienced, and more emotionally open, of the two. A vibrant supporting cast of family, friends, and co-workers helps round out the plot. Delightfully romantic and emotionally uplifting.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Honey Girl * (also in eBook and audiobook) by Morgan Rogers is “especially notable for its celebration of friendship, especially in queer communities, and for exploring the many ways relationships can be meaningful and intimate beyond romance... A strong romantic fiction debut that will appeal to readers looking for a story of true love via self-discovery.” (Kirkus Reviews)
28 year-old Grace Porter heads to Las Vegas with her girlfriends and roommates to celebrate her PhD in astronomy. After a night of revelry, she awakes to an empty bed, a ring on her finger, a business card and a key on her pillow. Back in Portland, Oregon, her finds it hard to explain to her ex-military father how being a mixed-race lesbian, she doesn't seem to "be the right fit" for most companies in her field, made abundantly clear in her failed job interview set up by her mentor.
Feeling listless, Grace flees to New York to track down her Vegas wife Yuki Yamamoto, a late night radio talk show host. Even though they develop a deep connection, depression claims Grace and once again, she leaves, this time to a Florida orange grove to reconnect with her mostly absent mother.
“With a cast of diverse and underrepresented characters, Rogers’s debut is a beautiful story of learning to love in so many ways: untraditionally, through deep hurt, through mental illness, and through struggles with which readers can relate. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)
* * * = 3 starred reviews
* = Starred review
Wed, 04/14/2021 - 1:54pm by marianaroo
One of the most anticipated books of 2021 is the novel Klara and the Sun by the British writer Kazuo Ishiguro. Like many others, I discovered Ishiguro in 2005 through his masterpiece, Never Let Me Go. In 2015, I had the pleasure to attend a reading of his book The Buried Giant in Ann Arbor, sponsored by the University of Michigan English Department.
Klara and the Sun is the first book he has published since that lecture and since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017.
To my delight Klara and the Sun continues the dystopian theme seen in Ishiguro’s previous work. Klara, our narrator, is a robot with human appearance that was created as an Artificial Friend (AF) to accompany children in the distant future. The first sentence of the book is also Klara's first thought:
Wed, 04/07/2021 - 11:49am by mrajraspn08
As we get older, our books have less and less pictures in them, which is too bad because sometimes, the illustrations add so much more to the story, like in these two series.
I frequently recommend The Guardians of Childhood series, and part of that is for the art. The illustrations are many, and they are truly beautiful. William Joyce drawings sweeps you away and transports you into a fantastical world. I’m always a little breathless at some scenes, both from the perfect depictions of his words brought to life and because the style lends itself so well to the tone of the novels.
Similar but different, illustrations—done in the style of engravings—in The Last Apprentice series add a spooky air to the stories. The books are haunting enough on their own, but the author’s aesthetic is perfectly translated throughout the course of the book due to its creepy imagery. Often, I would pause and just look at the illustrations, because it was even better than what I envisioned, and just as often, I would look away after just a quick glance, feeling chilled.
Mon, 04/05/2021 - 9:46pm by copelands
March is Women’s History Month, a time when we honor the contributions of women to American history, society and culture. While there are many youth books that honor pioneering women, below is a recommendation for a board book that young readers will enjoy.
A is for Amelia Earhart, B is for Beyoncé, C is for Coco Chanel. Looking for a fun way to learn your ABC’s while learning about some pretty powerful women too? Look no further than A is for Awesome! This fun and educational board book teaches kids about female visionaries throughout history who contributed to the world we enjoy today. There’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court who fought for gender equality and women’s rights. Malala Yousafzai advocated for female education and won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. Flo Jo, the late track and field athlete, is the fastest woman of all time. And there’s Oprah, the legendary television host and philanthropist who’s been referred to as the Queen of all Media and the most influential woman in the world. Whew, that’s a lot of powerful women! From fashion to music, government and human rights, A is for Awesome will introduce kids to a list of female role models from all walks of life.
Fri, 04/02/2021 - 4:57pm by muffy
As the Obamas are about to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Chicago’s Black communities are experiencing a new sense of optimism. Xavier, a mid-level manager is eager to start a family but his wife Ruth, an Ivy-league educated engineer is reluctant. Lately she has been crippled by guilt over what happened the summer before leaving for Yale on a scholarship. Abandoned by a mother addicted to drugs, she and her brother Eli were raised by kind and god-fearing grandparents who sacrificed everything to help her realize her potential. Unable to face Xavier with the truth, Ruth returns to the Indiana factory town she once called home, now plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair.
To move forward, Ruth knows she must first make peace with the past, most immediate is to track down the baby she abandoned. But everywhere she turns, she encounters tightly held secrets and lies. Then she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection.
“The Kindest Lie is a tale of how lies and omissions can shape and warp us. It is a story about reconciliation, set against a backdrop of racism and resentments. But more than anything, it is a meditation on family and forgiveness.” (Los Angeles Times)
Nancy Johnson, a native of Chicago’s South Side, is an Emmy-nominated, award-winning television journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she calls Chicago home. The Kindest Lie is her debut novel.
* = Starred review
Fri, 04/02/2021 - 11:41am by mrajraspn08
When I first heard about Gravity Falls, I wasn’t interested. It looked like a dumb show with dumb animation. Then I listened to a podcast episode about it, and I had to watch it. I’m so glad I did. While it does have a heavy dose of humor, that humor can vary from low-brow to very clever jokes. As a whole, the story line is incredibly compelling and well thought-out, touching on friendship, feelings of isolation, and growing pains as Dipper and Mabel explore the secrets of their small town.
But don’t stop at just watching the show. If you only watch the special features to one DVD, watch these! The cast and creators put so much love into the show, and it’s truly touching and amazing to hear. The creator put multiple Easter eggs into each episode (the whispering in the credits? They actually mean something), and did you know he created a worldwide scavenger hunt to celebrate the end of the series?
Everything about the show is charming and interesting, and everything beyond it even more so. I rewatch it regularly (yes, special features, too), and each time, I get even more enjoyment from it.