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Staff Picks: Celebrating Black Chefs

Wed, 02/01/2023 - 11:35am by emjane

A culinary road-trip to Oakland to eat at the Brown Sugar Kitchen, to New York to dine at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Harlem, and to the island of Edisto to knock on Emily Meggett’s side door and get some Gullah Geechee home cooking sounds amazing! If a cross-country trip isn’t in the cards for you, we’ve got great cookbooks to bring a bit of these chef’s kitchens into your own!

The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelsson | Request Now

The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus SamuelssonMore than a collection of recipes, The Rise highlights the role food—Black food specifically—plays in social justice. Broken into collections of recipes created in honor of Black chefs, activists, and authors (among others), The Rise places biographies and thought-provoking histories alongside sharply photographed food and recipes all the more meaningful because of the context. From the simpler hoecakes to the more complex Ayib and Sweet Potato Ravioli with Berbere Brown Butter, The Rise could keep you cooking for days. I think I’ll start by making Leftover Wine Spiced Chocolate Cake with Mulled Wine Raspberries (doesn’t that sound decadent?!)

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Staff Picks: Romantic Movies

Mon, 01/30/2023 - 11:23am by lucroe

Valentine’s Day is around the corner so enjoy these romance movies, some with a crossover appeal into other genres like horror, action, and fantasy.

The Lovebirds directed by Michael Showalter | Request Now

The Lovebirds directed by Michael ShowalterIssa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani play a couple that at the start seem to click perfectly but eventually the magic fades. But this is not about them coming apart, it is ultimately about being in the wrong place, wrong time when they accidentally stumble into a murder scene. In order to clear their names, they must find the killer but not without a lot of action and comedic moments along the way. Through it all, will the couple’s relationship become stronger or will this drive them even further apart? Watch and find out. 86 min.

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Staff Picks: Great Family Read Alouds

Fri, 01/27/2023 - 2:22pm by eapearce

Reading aloud is a great activity even for kids (and adults!) who already know how to read. But it can be challenging to find a good read aloud book for families with children of varying ages. It has to be exciting and interesting enough to keep the attention of older kids, but gentle enough for the younger ones. Here are a few of our recommendations for titles the whole family will enjoy listening to.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar | Request Now

Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar First published in 1978, this book is chock full of old-school humor that kids will love. Wayside School was built straight up from the ground, thirty stories high, with one classroom on each story. The book is written in short chapters with funny anecdotes from various classrooms in the school, making it perfect to read aloud in short snippets.

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Staff Picks: If You Liked This Year's Washtenaw Read, You Might Also Like...

Tue, 01/24/2023 - 10:48am by eapearce

The 2023 Washtenaw Read is Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid. Reid will give a talk, answer questions and do a book signing at the Downtown Library on Sunday, February 5 at 4pm. If you enjoyed Such a Fun Age, you might also enjoy some of these other titles!

That Kind of Mother, by Rumaan Alam | Request Now

That Kind of Mother, by Rumaan AlamFirst-time mother Rebecca is experiencing many of the common feelings of new mothers: she loves her son, but is also overwhelmed caring for him and mourns her life pre-child. Feeling desperate, she hires a Black woman named Priscilla to be her son’s nanny. As Priscilla becomes a large part of Rebecca’s life, Rebecca is forced to confront her long-held blind spots about her privilege, and ultimately begins to feel that Priscilla teaches her more about motherhood and herself than anyone else. When Priscilla tragically dies in childbirth, Rebecca steps up to adopt the baby, though she’s deeply unaware of what it means to be a white mother with a Black baby. Now, she must learn to raise two children whom she both loves fiercely, but who will have different experiences of the world simply because of their skin colors. 

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Staff Picks: Books to Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Wed, 01/18/2023 - 3:43pm by emjane

Also known as Chūnjié, Seollal, and Tết, the Lunar New Year celebrations begin Sunday, January 22 this year. Learn more about the traditions and mark the New Year in the books below! 

Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade by Lyla Lee | Request Now

Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade by Lyla LeeElementary-schooler Mindy is mostly ready to learn more about her Korean heritage as Lunar New Year approaches – though she’s a little worried the parade her dad wants to take her to will be boring, and she knows that celebrating the new year without her mother will be different. In this short chapter book, learn about the traditions of Lunar New Year alongside Mindy and watch she and her dad make the most of the holiday!

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #822 - Resourceful Women

Mon, 01/16/2023 - 2:32pm by muffy


The Bandit Queens * * by Parini Shroff (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “a darkly hilarious take on gossip, caste, truth, village life, and the patriarchy….. A perfect match for fans of Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer (2018) and clever, subversive storytelling.“ (Booklist) 

Ever since her abusive husband Ramesh disappeared five years ago, Geeta has become a social piranha in their small Indian village. She is feared and ostracized - for rumor has it that Geeta killed him. It turns out being a "self-made" widow has its perks…freedom. When a member of her microloan group (that funds her thriving wedding jewelry business) consults her for her “expertise” in husband disposal, it sets in motion a chain of events that will change everything, not just for Geeta, but for all the women in their village.

Inspired by the resourcefulness of Phoolan Devi, the Bandit Queen (the subject of a 1994 featured film), a folk heroine who exacted revenge on her abusers, Geeta reluctantly agrees to help Farah kill her husband. In the process, Geeta connects with widower Karem, a gentle and kind bootlegger, and her estranged childhood friend Saloni, fortuitous because bigger troubles come knocking at her door.

“Shroff deals sharply with misogyny and abuse, describing the misery inflicted as well as its consequences in unflinching detail, and is equally unsparing in her depictions of mean-girl culture in the village. Readers are in for a razor-stuffed treat.” (Publishers Weekly) 


Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man, the first in the Girl Friday Mystery by Emily J. Edwards (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).  New York City, 1950. Viviana Valentine is girl Friday to Tommy Fortuna, a private eye working out of Hell’s Kitchen. When fabulously wealthy Tallmadge Blackstone hires Tommy to tail his 18 year-old daughter Tallulah, who is resistant to marry his partner, the much older Webber Harrington-Whitley, it looks like routine business, and it will pay the bills. 

At a society event, Viviana meets the delightful Tallulah. Unfortunately, before she could report to Tommy the next day, she finds a lifeless body on the office floor and Tommy missing. The cops, led by Detective Jake Lawson who finds Tommy’s business tactics questionable at best, is quick to issue a warrant for his arrest. It is now up to Viviana to take on the Blackstone case, and to clear Tommy’s name. 

“Though the mystery doesn’t seem to be up to much, Edwards sneaks in a raft of twists and complications under your guard, and the big reveal is surprisingly big and revealing. Just what 1950s men’s magazine fiction would be like if it were written by and about women.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

socialites_guide_to_murderThe Socialite's Guide to Murder: A Pinnacle Hotel Mystery by S. K. Golden (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) a series debut perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen and Ashley Weaver.

1958. 21 year-old Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy, heiress to The Pinnacle Hotel, one of New York City’s premier hotels, is privileged, pampered and frankly, spoiled. Since finding her mother’s body in an alley when she was six, she suffers from agoraphobia, and rarely if ever, leaves the hotel. From her perch in the penthouse suite and the hotel staff at her disposal, life is grand, until a valuable painting in a splashy affair goes missing, and the artist murdered in the hotel corridor, following a violent confrontation with her best friend, actor Henry Fox. Before Evelyn could prove Henry’s innocence, the head of hotel security is arrested. 

Enlisting the help of bellboy/her secret crush, Malcolm "Mac" Cooper, they pick locks, snoop around the hotel, and discover the walls around them contain more secrets than they previously knew. Now, Evelyn must force herself to leave the hotel to follow the clues to find the murderer.   “Suggest to readers who enjoyed other hotel-set mysteries with young amateur sleuths, like Nita Prose's The Maid and Audrey Keown's Murder at Hotel 1911.(Library Journal) 

 * * = 2 starred reviews

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Staff Picks: Shake Off the Winter Blahs

Sun, 01/15/2023 - 12:09pm by lucroe

Winter can, for some, be a time of hibernation, less productivity, and result in sealing yourself off from others. The books here can help open us up to ideas on how to break free of some of the negativity that winter may bring and to gain inspiration in this ‘closed off’ period of time.

Wintering by Katherine May | Request Now

Wintering by Katherine MayA beautiful and inspirational memoir that provides insights from literature, mythology, and nature to push through the isolation and negativity that can accompany winter. To learn and grow from a self-imposed retreat, to become revitalized from resting, and to embrace the quiet stillness of nature are some bits of nourishment gathered here.

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Staff Picks: Family Movies (that adults enjoy too!)

Tue, 01/10/2023 - 12:18pm by emjane

Winter is prime for movie nights, and whether or not you have kiddos in your life, it’s worth picking a flick that everyone can like!

The Mitchells vs. The Machines Request on DVD | Request on Blu-Ray

The Mitchells vs. The MachinesBudding filmmaker Katie is ready to head to college and get some space from her kind, but overbearing dad, Rick. When Rick decides at the last minute that the entire family should road-trip to take Katie to school, it seems like it can’t get worse. But then the robots come.

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Staff Picks: More Quirky Fiction: Dysfunctional Family Edition

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 1:51pm by emjane

As I’ve said before, Quirky Fiction is my favorite genre, and my favorite sub-variant are books featuring dysfunctional families. There’s a fine line with dysfunction in quirky fiction – for my taste it generally needs to tread heavier on the “makes me laugh” rather than the “makes me want to cry” side of the line. But there’s something about the parent-child and sibling-to-sibling dynamics that keep me reading more.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson | Request Now

The Family Fang by Kevin WilsonAs children, Annie and Buster Fang were forced to participate in their parents’ public performance art. They escaped that world after becoming adults, but when life circumstances bring them both back to the family home, their folks attempt to pull them into their last big performance piece.

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AADL's Most Requested Items of 2022

Fri, 12/30/2022 - 10:37am by jstovall

most requested 2022

Wondering what the most requested items in the AADL collection were in 2022? We've got the full list. From the most requested fiction and non-fiction titles to thermal cameras, The Starry Night, and our 1,000-piece LEGO minifig puzzle—see our top-20 most requested everything of 2022! 


1. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus 

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AADL Named Five Star Library for the 15th Year in a Row

Tue, 12/27/2022 - 9:26am by richretyi

5 star

For the 15th 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.

“AADL is honored to receive this recognition from Library Journal for the 15th year in a row," said AADL Board of Trustees President Jim Leija. "The AADL Board extends our sincere congratulations to the AADL staff for this achievement, and our gratitude for all the work they do to ensure that AADL is one of the best library systems in the country.”

Library Director Eli Neiburger adds, "The Library Journal Star Index measures how much a community uses its library, and the communities of the AADL district really love to use their libraries! Thank you to all our patrons for all the visiting, borrowing, event attending, and more that happens at the library every day. And especially, thank you for always letting us know what you think about AADL, and how we can better serve, surprise, and delight you when you use your library."

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Staff Picks: New Year, New You

Wed, 12/21/2022 - 1:51pm by eapearce

Ah, New Year's resolutions. Some of us make them (any maybe break them) every year, some of us do it only occasionally, and some folks skip them altogether. If you’re hoping to make a shift in 2023, some of these recent titles might be just the thing to motivate you to commit and help you with the process along the way.

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?, by Julie Smith | Request Now

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?, by Julie SmithDr. Julie Smith covers a wide range of topics in this book, all with a general focus on mental health. From emotional pain and grief to motivation to fear, she offers concrete tools and analysis for how to cope with everything life throws at us, even in the most trying of times. Also helpful is that the various chapters and concepts are presented in concise, bite-sized form, making things easy to digest. You can read this one cover-to-cover, or skip around finding the chapters and ideas that resonate with you most or best suit your goals. 

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Staff Picks: Best Baking Books!

Mon, 12/19/2022 - 10:55am by emjane

Whether it’s always “Baking Season” in your kitchen (like it is in mine!) or you ramp things up this time of year, a good recipe is the perfect –erm – recipe for a treat! Use your oven to heat up your home, and check out these great books chock-full of recipes you’ll find yourself returning to again and again!

Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book| Request Now

Cook’s Illustrated Baking BookMy mom and I often joke about recipes from Cook’s Illustrated: “They’re fussy, but worth it.” And those “fussy” recipes are a great way to learn the ins-and-outs of baking. Often procedures specified in recipes by Cooks can elevate your other go-to bakes as well! This cookbook also does a great job of explaining why you should follow certain steps as you bake. It’s always nice to learn something (and get rewarded for it with sweets at the end!)

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Staff Picks: Long Takes Worth the Watch: Movies 3 hours+

Tue, 12/13/2022 - 7:15pm by lucroe

So you say you have some time on your hands, or maybe you’re just stuck in the house for a bit and would love to watch a 3+ hour long movie? Sounds like a lot, but if you have the time in one sitting or more, these movies are well-worth watching. These picks do not include some of the classic long watches like Lawrence of Arabia or Spartacus (which are all excellent options :), but nevertheless deserve the acclaim.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles | Request Now

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 BruxellesRecently voted the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine’s 2022 poll (in their last poll from 2012 it was 36th) knocking Hitchcock’s Vertigo down a peg. Chantal Akerman is the first female director to make the top ten. An ambitious 1975 film follows the widow, Jeanne through her daily domestic regime, her life with a teenage son, and her sexual activity. With very little dialog, her routine, however mundane to watch, feels ominous and finally reaches an unexpected crescendo in the final act. Some critics call it a ‘study of alienated monotony’, others a ‘depiction of domestic imprisonment’. Avant garde film at its greatest.
Running time : 201 minutes

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Staff Picks: Best of 2022 Fiction Titles You May Have Missed

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 3:36pm by eapearce

It’s that time when many different outlets are compiling their “best books of the year” lists and it’s always exciting to see what gets named. Sometimes the titles are predictable–it seems like you saw everyone reading a particular book this year, and sometimes they’re surprising–a title you never heard of, or that no one you know has read. Today, we’re highlighting a few of the books that fall into the second category!

Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett | Request Now (New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year)

Checkout 19, by Claire-Louise Bennett Checkout 19, by the same author that penned the 2016 novel Pond, tells the story of an unnamed British woman in her 40s living in Ireland. Fiercely attached to the written word, she both reads and writes voraciously, scouring books for inspiration and writing down her recollections of her life thus far. Much of her life story revolves around writing and reading, including her earliest attempts as a young woman to write fiction, and the various men–all readers themselves–who influence her worldview and work. This is a complex story that is both a portrait of an artist and a feminist literary critique–it’s not for everyone, but those who delve in will be rewarded with much to think about. 

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Best of 2022

Sat, 12/03/2022 - 11:12am by muffy

best_of_the_bestBookPage’s The Best Books of 2022.

Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books 2022

Kirkus Reviews editors pick of the Top !00 Fiction Books, and Best 100 Nonfiction of the Year.

2022 Books We Love - Great Reads, Thoughtfully Curated by NPR, especially notable are the 51 titles in Staff Picks (by names we know and trust). 

The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2022.  The 10 Best Books of 2022: The staff of The New York Times Book Review choose the year’s standout fiction and nonfiction.

The 2022 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books. This year’s 10 winners are picked by a panel of three expert judges who consider every illustrated children’s book published this year in the United States. A feast for the eye!

There is something for everyone in Publishers’ Weekly Best Books of 2022: Top 10, Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Poetry, Romance, SF/Fantasy/Horror, Comics, Nonfiction, Religion,

Lifestyle, Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult

Time Magazine’s The 100 Must-Read Books of 2022 (from gripping novels, transporting poetry, to timely nonfiction that asked us to look deeper). 

If, like me, you spend a lot of time on the road, and you have blown through the  2022 Audie Awards, you might want to check out The Washington Post’s 10 best audiobooks of 2022, Harper’s Bazaar’s The 44 Best Audiobooks To Make Your Next Road Trip Fly By, and BookPage’s Best Audiobooks of 2022


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Staff Picks: Stream it on

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 12:18pm by emjane

Scoot over, Netflix, there’s another streaming option! Did you know that there is a wide assortment of streaming content available to you via your catalog? You can browse the whole collection of more than 13,000 videos, or check out some recommended picks below:

Nature Documentaries

There are nature documentary series aplenty available to stream. Why not check out the classic Planet Earth? Or Blue Planet? Frozen Planet? (We’ve got a lot of Planet content!) Only have a little pocket of time but want some cuteness? We’ve got you covered with Andy’s Baby Animals.

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Staff Picks: Indoor Gardening

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 5:29pm by lucroe

Whether you are new to taking care of plants, just need some advice on some you already have, or would like suggestions on purchasing some plants for yourself or others, here are some worthwhile reads that can help with the care and upkeep of the indoor garden.

What is my plant telling me? by Emily Hay Hinsdale | Request Now

What is my plant telling me? by Emily Hay HinsdaleWhy are those leaves browning or yellowing or just dropping off? Will this plant thrive better in a southwest facing window? Low or high light or just a hint? This book covers the care of 50 common houseplants in alpha order A (African violet) to Z (ZZ plant). Great for beginners. Her other book is another great gift for the absolute beginner to indoor gardening called Never Put a Cactus in the Bathroom

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #821, Spotlight on Indigenous Voices

Mon, 11/28/2022 - 3:29pm by muffy

white_horseOne of CrimeRead’s Best November Novels, and USA Today’s 15 great reads to honor Native American History Month (according to Goodreads),   White Horse * * by Erika T. Wurth (she is of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent) is part horror novel, part detective story (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), that's perfect for fans of Stephen Graham Jones and Catriona Ward . (Library Journal)

The title, taken from the name of the Denver bar where our protagonist Kari James often parks herself for cold beers and hot metal. It is where she meets up with her cousin Debby, who presents her with a beaded bracelet that once belonged to Kari’s mother, a woman who disappeared just two days after Kari was born. 

Every time she puts on the bracelet, it causes Kari to see the ghost of her mother - screaming, bloody, and crying for help, and she wonders for the first time if her mother's disappearance wasn't all it appeared to be. Growing up, her permanently-disabled father and Auntie Squeaker were mum on the subject, forcing Kari now on a quest to uncover what really happened, and the truth long denied by both her family and law enforcement forces. 

“Wurth creates a compelling world that feels so real it's easy to forget you're reading a work of fiction. She allows readers to truly get inside Kari's head, and they will ache for her as she leaves no stone unturned in her investigation. White Horse is a must-read for anyone fond of ghost stories and the horror genre, as Wurth's voice is both authentic and insistent.” (Booklist) 


Longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize, A Minor Chorus * * *  by Canadian poet Billy-Ray Belcourt, a Lambda Literary Award winner, and a member of the Driftpile Cree Nation, which the BookPage reviewer called “a feat of technical brilliance… a slippery, scholarly work, rooted in the layered complexity of Indigenous life."

Our protagonist is a queer Indigenous doctoral student in Northern Alberta who temporarily steps away from his dissertation on critical theory, and returns home to write a novel, informed by his conversations with fellow doctoral student River over the mounting pressure placed on marginalized scholars; with Michael, a closeted man from his hometown whose vulnerability and loneliness punctuate the realities of queer life on the fringe;  and memories of cousin Jack, trapped in the awful cycle of police violence, drugs, and despair. In between, he has casual sex, analyzing the differences between rural and urban Grindr profiles and hookups. 

“Belcourt's smart, thoughtful writing will appeal to readers who prize introspection over plot, and is also a great crossover for memoir readers.” (Booklist) 

“Belcourt weaves in a steady stream of references to work by Judith Butler, Roland Barthes, and Maggie Nelson without losing narrative momentum, and he delivers incendiary reflections on the costs, scars, and power of history and community. This is a breathtaking and hypnotic achievement.” (Publishers Weekly)  

Readers might also want to check out the other titles on Oprah Daily’s 31 Native American Authors to Read Right Now.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Staff Picks: Didn’t I Read That in School? : Classics Worth Revisiting

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:04am by emjane

I read some wonderful pieces of literature in high school and undergrad – but when the reading is homework, I often didn’t spend the time it takes to fully appreciate both the writing and the story. Plus, the more life experience I gather, the more opportunities I have to consider a story from multiple perspectives. Here are some titles I felt were worth a reread!

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston| Request Now

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonTheir Eyes Were Watching God has an ideal balance of beautiful description and a compelling plot, and all that was wasted on me when I sped through it in undergrad (a term with three literature classes sounds lovely, but is TOO MUCH!) Thank goodness I was spurred to pick it up again so I could participate in an AADL Book Club Discussion.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #820

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 3:37pm by muffy

cloisterThe Cloisters, *  a debut by art history professor and museum professional Katy Hays is a gripping tale of “Murder! Occult! Obsession”, (Kirkus Reviews) set at the famed The MET Cloisters. (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook

Ann Stilwell, a Whitman graduate still mourning the sudden death of her father, is glad to turn her back on Walla Walla where she has lived all her life, and heads to NYC for a summer internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Upon arrival, she learns the offer has been rescinded and she is reassigned to The Cloisters, after a chance meeting with Curator Patrick Roland. Being a skilled linguist, Ann will be working with the medieval art collection, preparing for an upcoming exhibition of the arcane history of divination and the Tarot. Reserve and alone in a new city, Ann is surprised and pleased to be befriended by the beautiful and supremely competent Rachel Mondray, a fellow intern, and Leo, The Cloisters' gardener.

When Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future, she keeps it a secret, a secret she shares only with Rachel. Soon academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession. The dangerous game of power, seduction and ambition at The Cloisters among the researchers eventually turns deadly. 

“Hays carefully leaves the supernatural elements open to interpretation, and Ann's summer is ultimately shaped by a tragedy with a traceably human cause. Readers will be fascinated by the evocative setting as well as the behind-the-scenes glimpses into museum curatorship and the cutthroat games of academia. It makes for an accomplished debut.” (Publishers Weekly) 

 * = Starred review

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Staff Picks: Book Club Picks for Engaging Discussion

Mon, 11/14/2022 - 7:21pm by emjane

Every good book does not make for a good book club selection – and sometimes you don’t know until it’s too late and your group’s discussion peters out at “well, I enjoyed reading it.” Luckily, your local library has your back! Here are four books that I absolutely loved that also happen to make for great discussion. Conveniently, all four are offered as part of our “Book Clubs to Go” collection (and so are a bunch more titles). What is a Book Club to Go, you ask? It’s a handy-dandy, heavy-duty tote bag, filled with ten copies of the same title and a packet of information about the book, including discussion questions. The only thing you’ll have to provide are the refreshments!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel | Request a Copy | Request a Book Club to Go

Station ElevenA fast-moving pandemic devastates the world, leaving just a small percentage of people – and almost no infrastructure – behind. Jumping between perspectives and timelines, Emily St. John Mandel tells the stories of some of these survivors and their descendants, as they make their way through western Michigan. Tense, beautiful, and thought-provoking, this literary page-turner brought plenty to talk about to my book club. 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #819, Small (Texas) Towns, Big Secrets

Fri, 11/11/2022 - 5:00pm by muffy

They might be flying under the media radar, but these two debuts are not to be missed….

olympus_texasIn Olympus, Texas * * *  by Stacey Swann (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) the Briscoe family is well known in this part of east Texas. 

Indiscretions and infidelity run through the generations. Peter, the patriarch, a real estate tycoon with a notorious roving eye, has exhausted his long-suffering wife June’s good will and forgiveness with his many affairs, and his ”other” family, twins Arlo & Arti, fathered with his mistress Lee.  

After being caught having an affair with his brother Hap’s wife, Vera, youngest son March has just returned to town after an absence of 2 years. Within days of March's arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of allies are tested.

“Swann's debut is rich in Texas flavor and full of nods to classical mythology—quotes from Ovid, twins human and canine, and the kind of relentless bad luck that usually means you've offended a deity. A total page-turner.” (Kirkus reviews)

Similar in tenor and tone to Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist (2010) and Cristina Alger's The Darlings (2012), Swann's rich and compelling novel will delight anyone anxiously awaiting the next season of HBO's Succession.” (Booklist)


old_placeOne of Kirkus Review's Most Anticipated Fall Books, The Old Place * *  by Texas native/Brooklyn podcaster (Who? Weekly) Bobby Finger (also in downloadable eBook) is set in Billington, Texas. "Reminiscent of Alice Elliott Dark’s novel Fellowship Point (a tale of two New England dowagers), it focuses on best friends and neighbors Mary Alice Roth and Ellie Hall and their deeply intertwined past and present." (BookPage)

For the first time in almost 4 decades, high school math teacher Mary Alice is at loose ends, having been forced into retirement, and decides to rekindle a lapsed relationship with her neighbor Ellie. It used be they were each other’s best friends. Ellie, recently divorced, is a nurse at a nearby hospital when she moved next door with her 12 year-old son Kenny, the same age as widowed Mary Alice’s son Michael. The boys quickly became inseparable, until a tragedy took them both the morning after their high school graduation.

As Mary Alice and Ellie make effort to renew their friendship with morning coffees, their routine is upended with the arrival of Mary Alice’s sister Katherine, with news that would expose the many secrets she has been keeping from the citizens of Billington, especially from Ellie. 

“Finger handles the nature of Kenny and Michael’s friendship and the town’s reaction with unexpected nuance, showing the problematic confusion in how people see themselves, see others, and assume they are seen by others. What could have turned melodramatic becomes an exploration of the danger of unnecessary secrets.  A surprising page-turner—homey, funny, yet with dark corners of anger and grief.” (Kirkus Reviews)  

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Staff Picks: Holiday Cooking

Wed, 11/09/2022 - 8:59pm by lucroe

It is that busiest time of year for some of us &, if you like to cook, the holidays can be a chance to show off your skills or at least try some recipes you think may impress. Here are some cookbooks to get you started whether you are baking a pie, cooking a vegan spread, or looking to become the next mixologist, there’s a book for you in our collection!

Baking & Desserts

Baking for the Holidays by Sarah Kieffer | Request Now

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Traverwood Elevator Outage

Wed, 11/02/2022 - 4:32pm by eli

In late August 2022, the hydraulic pump that powers the elevator at Traverwood failed, taking the elevator out of service. After attempts to repair the pump or get the elevator back into service were not successful, it was determined that a new pump and motor would be needed. Unfortunately, our vendors have been unable to locate the needed parts available for sale in the US due to ongoing supply chain and manufacturing issues.

Our current information is that the needed parts will arrive on November 30, 2022. Once the parts arrive our vendor should be able to get the elevator back into service within a few days. We will update the website banner when the elevator is back in service.

We're very sorry for this extended outage and the impact that it has on access to the library. We have exhausted the options available to us to make this happen sooner, and can only wait for the parts to arrive.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #818, Do You Believe in Magic?

Fri, 10/28/2022 - 4:11pm by muffy


In Thistlefoot, * * * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) poet/folklorist Genna Rose Nethercott “brings strong gifts to bear on this retelling of Slavic folktales. . . . at once a modern folktale, a road trip-like saga, and a chiller featuring ghosts, golems, and flesh-eating witches.” (Library Journal, “Top Fall Debut Novels”)

In the tradition of modern fairy tales like Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, Thislefoot is the saga of estranged siblings - Bellatine and Isaac, the youngest living direct descendants of Baba Yaga, who found themselves recipients of a bequest. The siblings agreed to meet at the Port Authority of New York though they have not seen each other for six years ever since Isaac took to the road at 17.  When they opened the enormous crate, they found Baba Yaga’s famous chicken-legged hut. When actor/shape-shifter Isacc saw how woodworker Bellatine was immediately enamored with Thistlefoot, he made her a deal - if they would tour their family’s puppet show for one year, he would trade his half of Thistlefoot for the proceeds. 

Unbeknown to them, a sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has been stalking the hut since 1919 and seeks to destroy it--and the Yagas--once and for all. 

“Nethercott's quiet, lyrical, yet potent prose likewise breathes life into this stirring, multigenerational fairy tale, which suggests that you will always carry your ancestors' suffering within you, even when you know little of your own family history. In some chapters, the wise, cynical Thistlefoot speaks to the reader directly, recalling its history with Baba Yaga, the witch from Slavic folklore, as well as chilling anecdotes of Jewish persecution in early twentieth-century Russia (now Ukraine). This fable about fables reminds us of the staying power of stories, even as they evolve or contradict themselves over time. “ (Booklist)


very_secret_soceity_of_irregular_witchesThe Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, * * * by Sangu Mandanna (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).

From an early age, Mika Moon, an orphan from a long-line of witches in India, is told to keep her magic hidden, for her own safety. Raised in isolation by Primrose, a family friend and head of a secret British coven, as an adult, Mika takes to the internet and posts videos in which she “pretends” to be a witch. Then comes the invitation by Ian Kubo-Hawthorn, a retired actor, inviting her to Nowhere House, and tutor 3 young orphaned witches how to control their magic. 

What Mika finds is a warm and loving household, all except for the "devastatingly handsome" Jamie Kelly, the house librarian, who is overly protective of little witches. Together they must learn to trust each other if they are going to survive the upcoming visit from the lawyer of the absent family matriarch that could mean the end of this found-family. 

“The world Mandanna has created is exceedingly cozy and heartfelt, full of people bursting with love who have trouble expressing it due to trauma in their pasts. From the three magical girls to the elderly gay caretakers to the hot, young Irish librarian, each resident of Nowhere House is a lovingly crafted outcast reaching for family. Various threads laid out seemingly haphazardly through the story all come together in surprising ways… A magical tale about finding yourself and making a found family that will leave the reader enchanted. “ (Kirkus Reviews)

“This sweet and sometimes steamy fantasy romance will appeal to fans of TJ Klune's The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020) or Karen Hawkins' The Book Charmer (2019).” (Booklist)

acts_of_violetActs of Violet (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Margarita Montimore, is “(a) winding tale of two sisters pulled together and pushed apart by fame, magic, and the cult of celebrity.” (Kirkus Reviews)

10 years ago, Violet Volk, a celebrated stage magician on one-night only performance, managed a remarkable stunt onstage: she vanished. As the anniversary of the disappearance approaches, her hold on her fans (called the wolf packs, the meaning of Volkov in Russia) and on the public imaginations is stronger than ever.  Cameron Frank, host of a fledgling podcast “Strange Exits” is devoting the season to all things Violet. He fully comprehends that securing an interview with Sasha, Violet’s quiet and publicity-shy sister would very well guarantee a next season with the network. 

“Supplementing the straightforward prose with a slew of narrative devices that include tabloid articles, email exchanges, and podcast transcripts, Montimore achieves a thoughtful, panoramic portrait of larger-than-life Violet while underscoring Sasha's pain as she tries to grieve under an unforgiving public eye. This spellbinding effort delivers its fair share of magic.” (Publishers Weekly) 

“Montimore's (Oona Out of Order, 2020) second novel illuminates the darker side of fame as it highlights the burdens borne by family members and casts a wry eye on the true-crime phenomenon. Fans of Nicole Baart and Kelly Harms will enjoy Sasha's and Violet's sisterly contrasts: the shared frustrations between a pragmatic people-pleaser and an audacious extrovert. Like an enthralling magic trick itself, Acts of Violet asks readers to suspend their disbelief and rewards them for the effort.” (Booklist)

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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Staff Picks: Writing in Washtenaw County

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 11:39am by emjane

It doesn’t take much digging to find some excellent books by authors with ties to Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County (it doesn’t hurt that we pull many in to teach at the University!) Some of these authors I picked up knowing they were local, some were just happy coincidences, all were great reads.

A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself by Peter Ho Davies | Request Now

A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself by Peter Ho DaviesI read this moving, assumed-autobiographical novel by Peter Ho Davies in one sitting. The book itself wastes no words: the writing is taut and packs an emotional punch from the first page. The narrator begins with the choice he and his wife make to abort a fetus due to health reasons – a decision that resonates throughout their challenging, but ultimately successful pregnancy with their son. Davies presents an honest and complicated account of fatherhood that I continue to think about months after reading. Not interested (or ready) to mull over the meaning of parenthood? I also absolutely loved Davies’ book The Fortunes.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #817, Taking Paris by Storm

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 8:52pm by muffy


Mademoiselle Revolution *  by Zoe Sivak (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook). 18 year-old Sylvie de Rosiers, the daughter of a white coffee plantation owner and an enslaved woman, enjoys the comforts of a lady in the 1791 French colony of Saint-Domingue society, though never quite fully accepted by the island elites.  When forced to flee the island for Paris with her beloved half-brother Gaspard during the slave revolt that leads into the Haitian Revolution, they find shelter with their Aunt Euphemie, 

There the siblings befriend young Elisabeth and Eleonore Duplay, and Sylvie especially, is drawn to their tenant Maximilien Robespierre and his mistress, Cornélie Duplay, and unwittingly, into another revolution. When the Reign of Terror descends, Sylvie must decide whether to become an accomplice while a new empire rises on the bones of innocents…or risk losing her head.

"As the Rosiers draw near the fringes of power, they must navigate the shifting sands of racism, unexpected romance, tyranny, and the people's trust in authority…. Sylvie is sympathetic, mercurial, and flawed, impulsively bolting from conflicts and into danger. Sivak's debut novel is replete with rich details of eighteenth-century life, her characters freely mingling with historical figures and events. Readers will appreciate the tour through French history. “ (Boolist)

“A richly imagined work of historical women’s fiction incorporating themes of diversity and equality very relevant today, this thrilling debut will give book clubs much to discuss.” (Library Journal)


A Caribbean Heiress in Paris * *  by Adriana Herrera  (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is the first in the projected Las Léonas Series.  

Luz Alana Heith-Benzan inherited her family’s centuries-old rum business in Santo Domingo but her fortune remains in the hands of her absent guardian until she marries.  So with three hundred casks of her best rum, her younger sister and her two best friends, she sets sail for Paris and the 1889 Exposition Universelle, in the hopes of expanding the business into European markets. However, she finds buyers and shippers alike refuse to do business with a woman, never mind a woman of color.

Enters James Evanston Sinclair, Earl of Darnick, who turns his back on his father’s dirty money and dirtier politics, and builds himself a whisky empire.  Realizing they both have something to gain from a marriage of convenience--Luz would be able to access her inheritance, Evan could gain control of his late mother's distillery, the deal is done. 

“While their relationship is meant to be just a business transaction, they would both like to act upon their physical attraction. Soon, emotions and passion blur the line between business and pleasure. Herrera kicks off an enticing historical romance series with this lush, diverse feminist tale. Racism and sexism are tackled head-on in ways that feel both appropriate to the time and relatable to today. Paris and Scotland are vibrant settings, and the large cast is filled with interesting, nuanced characters, from friends to foes. With fascinating historical detail, suspenseful drama, and scorching hot intimate moments, this story hits all the notes of a superb romance, while the setting and characters make it fresh and exciting.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"Adriana Herrera’s novel is as layered, spiced, and intoxicating as Luz’s rum, but its most effective aspect is the sobering ways it layers indictments of colonialism and slavery amid luscious romance and revenge. Adriana Herrera's stories of brilliant and mission-driven Afro-Latinx heroines are not to be missed." (Entertainment Weekly)

* * = 2 starred reviews

 * = Starred review

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Staff Picks: Halloween Hauntings—Movies & TV

Mon, 10/10/2022 - 3:28pm by lucroe

It’s that time of year to enjoy some scary tales, so put the kids to bed and curl up tight. Here are some video suggestions for a frighteningly good time.

Evil (TV Show) First 2 seasons available on DVD | Request Now

EvilEvil is a show that puts all the fears of devils and demons in your face (just ask George, you’ll get the reference once you’ve watched it long enough!). David Acosta (Mike Colter, who played comic book hero Luke Cage) is a Catholic priest in training (sometimes questioning his path) and charged with looking into purported supernatural events. He teams up with a skeptical psychologist, Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), and a technology wiz, Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi). Is it a miracle, a demonic possession, or something explained through logic and science? Produced by the team behind the award-winning shows, Good Wife and Good Fight.

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Staff Picks: Short & Sweet Titles

Tue, 10/04/2022 - 9:05am by emjane

Where are the short books for grownups? They can be tough to come by, but there are some really good ones out there! At 212 pages or less, these books don’t ask too much of your time, but give you plenty to think about! Though “sweet” might not be the first word you’d use to describe them (except for The Uncommon Reader which is decidedly sweet!), sitting down with any of these titles is a real treat!

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (120 pages) | Request Now

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett It all starts when the Queen of England chases her dogs into a city of Windsor bookmobile. Not intending to leave with anything but her canines, but recognizing it would hurt the feelings of the librarian if she didn’t check out a book, the Queen picks a title on a whim (from an author she had named a Dame!). Since she has the book, she may as well read it before it’s due, and then, well, she should probably get another one, and all of a sudden, she’s inadvertently ignited a passion for reading that’s starting to impact her royal responsibilities. The Uncommon Reader is a delightful snack of a book from beginning to end. Plus, though she’s never referred to as Queen Elizabeth II, given the book Queen’s penchant for corgis, and the cover art, you can bet she’s who Bennett expects you to picture.