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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #816, Unlikely Assassins

Fri, 09/23/2022 - 2:39pm by muffy

killers_of_a_certain_age

Deanna Raybourn, author of the Edgar Award–nominated Veronica Speedwell Mysteries, as well as the Lady Julia Grey series,  presents a contemporary stand-alone in  Killers of a Certain Age  * * *  (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook.) 

After 40 years of dedicated service to The Museum, a clandestine international organization, Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie are retiring, being sent off with an all-expenses paid luxury cruise. They are not the deadliest assassins for nothing - Billie at once notices a fellow colleague passing himself off as a crew member. A search of his cabin unearths a sophisticated bomb, large enough to send the whole ship off to oblivion.  Realizing only the Museum Board could order the termination of field agents, these 60somthing must rely on their training and experience to survive. 

“The story jumps back and forth between the late 1970s and early '80s, when the women were first recruited, to the present day… The writing is witty and original, and the plot is unpredictable…As the women race around the world trying to stay alive, Raybourn vividly evokes a number of far-flung locations while keeping readers on their toes trying to figure out what's going to happen next….A unique examination of womanhood as well as a compelling, complex mystery. “ (Kirkus Reviews)

AUDIO PICK

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The Old Woman with the Knife (downloadable eBook and audiobook) is the first book to be translated into English for South Korean author Gu Byeong-mo.

65 year-old Hornclaw knows retirement is imminent. After 4 decades of eliminating double-crossers, corporate enemies, and cheating spouses with ruthless efficiency as a “disease control specialist”, she has to admit she is no longer as fast or as strong - liabilities for an assassin. But before she could settle into retirement, living modestly in the same small apartment, with her aging rescue dog, Deadweight, she had one last assignment. Due to an uncharacteristic slip-up, she is injured and makes an unexpected connection with a doctor and his family at an all-night clinic. But emotions, for an assassin, are a dangerous proposition.

“In (Chi-Young) Kim’s fluid translation, the novel resembles recent South Korean narratives that became popular in the United States, like Bong Joon Ho’s 2019 film Parasite and Hwang Dong-hyuk’s 2021 television series Squid Game,  like these works, “The Old Woman With the Knife” uses occasionally cartoonish action and horror sequences to offer a broader social commentary.” (The New York Times Book Reviews

*  *  *  = 3 starred reviews

 

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Staff Picks: Great Games You Can Play in Under an Hour

Tue, 09/13/2022 - 10:06am by emjane

Don’t get me wrong, those long games you can spend all afternoon (or even all weekend) playing are wonderful, but sometimes you only have an hour or so. These great games can all be played relatively quickly (with the caveat that sometimes the first play as you’re learning the rules can be a bit longer)! And, even better, they can all be checked out from your FAVORITE LOCAL LIBRARY!

Forbidden Island | Request Now

Forbidden IslandThis quick cooperative game is a great transitional game for eager boardgamer kids ready to play the “grown up games” (but it’s also fun for just adults to play, too!) Your team of players must work to rescue four relics from the Forbidden Island before the water levels rise and the island sinks into the sea forever! Each player is randomly assigned a role with unique skills, preventing your most seasoned players from always being the “star of the show” and allowing for some replayability. The game is structured with various difficulty levels, making it simple to create a surmountable challenge depending on who’s playing. The one downside of Forbidden Island is that once you’ve experienced all the player roles, the game can develop a bit of a “same” feeling (even though the board is different each play). This makes it a perfect candidate to borrow, rather than buy!
 

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Request For Subcontractor Bids: 265 Parkland Plaza

Wed, 09/07/2022 - 8:28pm by eli

O'Neal Construction Inc. on behalf of AADL

REQUEST FOR SUBCONTRACTOR BIDS

Project:

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Quirky Fiction

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 10:11am by emjane

Characters with out-there personalities, situations that could happen but aren’t particularly common in the everyday, and plots that don’t follow the through-line you might expect: these traits are what make a book fall under the “quirky fiction” umbrella. These sorts of books are my very favorite, and I’m always looking for more! Don’t hesitate to comment if you’ve got one that I should check out!

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson | Request Now

Nothing to See Here by Kevin WilsonLillian doesn’t have a whole lot going in her life, so when her former classmate Madison reaches out with an intriguing employment offer, Lillian follows through. Madison, the wife of a prominent (and rich!) politician, needs some help looking after her twins. The one wrinkle: when they get agitated (which happens a lot), they spontaneously combust. Not only can burning twins cause chaos in their atmosphere, but the knowledge of their “little problem” would tank their father’s political career.

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Staff Picks: Modern Romance

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 2:34pm by eapearce

The past few years have offered a slew of great new romance novels, many of them featuring diverse characters and cultures–something that used to be much less common in romance novel publishing! We’re excited to recommend some of these fun new reads this week.

Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley | Request Now

Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie WesleyIn this sweet romance, a football player and a reality television star pretend to date in order to save his bakery. After starring in the country’s most beloved reality show–and turning down the proposal at the end–going out in public is hard for Jada Townsend-Mathews. Not knowing the real story, people are disgusted with her choice. Back in her hometown, she gets a job at a hot new cupcake bakery owned by professional football player Donovan Dell. Donovan’s uptight nature makes the job less-than-perfect, but when a photographer captures him and Jada together and the tabloids assume the two are dating, they decide to roll with it. The press might help them rehabilitate the bakery and improve Jada’s image, so it seems like a win-win. Faking it proves harder than they anticipate though, until, of course, it doesn’t…. 

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Staff Picks: Essay Collections to Make You Laugh (and maybe feel something too!)

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 12:33pm by emjane

Have you already read David Sedaris’s latest and are looking for more? Or are you (like me), still waiting your turn on the hold list? Either way, I’ve got great news – there are SO MANY wonderful humorous, yet insightful, essay collections out there. Here are just four of my favorites:

Vacationland by John Hodgman | Request Now

Vacationland by John HodgmanLet’s face it, most people still recognize John Hodgman as the PC in those long-running Apple commercials. But people who only know him as that are missing out because THE MAN CAN WRITE! (And, perhaps less surprising, he’s very funny). In Vacationland, an essay collection adapted from his one-man show, Hodgman chronicles tales from his childhood as an only child (or, as he calls it being a member of the “worldwide super-smart-afraid-of-conflict narcissist club”) to his path to adulthood and fatherhood. Hodgman is poignant without sappiness and his humor adds to his storytelling without feeling forced or overpowering. Gosh, I think I’ve just convinced myself to give this one a re-read!

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Staff Picks: Back to School Picture Books

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:26am by eapearce

We can’t believe school is starting back up already! Here are some back-to-school themed picture books to help ease the transition and celebrate school!

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes | Request Now

Chrysanthemum by Kevin HenkesThis classic picture book tells the story of Chrysanthemum, an adorable mouse, who is excited for her first day of school. But when she tells her classmates her long and unique name, she gets teased for its uniqueness. Saddened, Chrysanthemum doesn’t want to return to school despite the efforts and encouragement of her kind parents. However, when the beloved music teacher, an expectant mother, tells the class that she is naming her baby Chrysanthemum, everyone is delighted and Chrysanthemum’s classmates all wish they were named after a flower. This sweet book encourages owning your identity and supporting others. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is another great first-day-of-school read by Henkes.

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Staff Picks: Make it Musical!

Mon, 08/29/2022 - 2:19pm by emjane

Whether you’re interested in the science of music or just want to hear a good story about a fictional band, we’ve got you covered! Here are four titles I’ve enjoyed where music takes center stage (or maybe side-stage, but it’s still there!)

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid | Request Now

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins ReidTaylor Jenkins Reid’s books are having a surge in popularity – deservedly so, in my opinion. Like her other titles, Daisy Jones uses multiple characters’ perspectives to tell the story of the development of a successful rock band in the 1960s. Beautiful Daisy has been sneaking into rock clubs and partying since she was a young teen and eventually starts to get noticed for her remarkable voice. Meanwhile, Billy Dunne’s band, The Six, is making its way through the rock scene. Eventually, producers try to merge the two acts, and while something fantastic is created, it's marred by ego-driven drama.  Sound suspiciously like the plot to The Final Revival of Opal and Nev that I recommended a few weeks ago? The premises and executions are definitely SIMILAR, but both take their stories in different directions and provide their own unique read. I inadvertently read them one after the other, and while I might suggest spacing them a bit, it didn’t feel like reading the same book.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #815, Jazz-Age Mysteries

Sun, 08/21/2022 - 6:55pm by muffy

last_call_at_the_nightingaleLast Call at The Nightingale * *  by Katharine Schellman (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) launches her new series (after her Lily Adler Series), set in Prohibition-era Manhattan. 

Siblings Florence and Vivian Kelly spend their days toiling as seamstresses in a dress shop run by a mean owner. While Florence is sensible and practical, preferring to spend her evenings in their squalid tenement room, Vivian escapes to The Nightingale, an underground nightclub where the jazz band plays, illegal liquor flows, and the low light and dance floor welcomes all - from Asian bartender Danny Chin, waitress and singer Bea Henry, Nightingale owner Honor "Hux" Huxley and to  uppercrust Manhattan society. 

One night, on a cigarette break, Vivian discovers a body in an alley behind the club, and she is arrested during a subsequent police raid. An unlikely bail comes with strings - she is to spy on the dead man's family and help find the killer.

“Schellman lavishes many chapters on her colorful Roaring ’20s setting before moving the murder probe to the front burner, an understandable gambit in a series kickoff. Colorful period detail, providing insights into the social and political tenor of the times, might allay the impatience of traditional whodunit fans. Once the action gets started, Vivian nails the clever killer and finds a lover and potential sleuthing sidekick. A colorful period crime yarn with a heroine worth rooting for.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

miss_aldridge_regretsMiss Aldridge RegretsLondon-based Louise Hare’s US debut, (also in eBook and downloadable audiobook) is set largely aboard the glittering RMS Queen Mary, sailing from Southampton to New York.

London, 1936. Lena Aldridge, a mixed-race girl passing for white is barely able to pay her rent singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho since her pianist father died a year ago. The dazzling theater career she hopes for might finally be hers when an American shows up offering a starring role on a Broadway show and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York. The timing is perfect considering the sleazy owner  of the club (and married to her best friend Maggie) is murdered right in front of her. 

Seated at a table in Cabin (First) Class with the wealthy and dysfunctional Abernathys, she is drawn into their bizarre family dynamics when the patriarch is murdered in a chilling familiar way. More murders follow and soon, Lena finds herself fighting for her life. 

“The novel's ambiance is spot-on; somewhat like Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple set 10 years later or Marie Benedict's The Personal Librarian. As Lena narrates, switching from the present to the past, readers gain helpful glimpses of her backstory.  With vividly drawn characters, this exciting blend of murder mystery and historical romance is hard to put down once one starts reading.” (Library Journal)

For fans of Nekesa Afia’s debut Dead Dead Girls  (and its sequel Harlem Sunset) and these Jazz Age Mysteries That'll Make You Swing. 

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Staff Picks: Great Two-Player Games

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 1:50pm by emjane

During the deepest, darkest days of the pandemic, my partner and I found ourselves desperately missing our Game Nights from the before-times and started a quest to find the best two-player games we could find. Though our gaming options have since broadened again, we still often find ourselves turning to one of these games for a quick after-dinner match!

Patchwork | Request Now

Patchwork board gameThe concept of Patchwork is simple: each player is given a quilt square and needs to fill it by piecing together patches. Players take turns selecting patches (imagine cardboard Tetris pieces), collecting bonuses, and attempting to finish their quilt. Quick to learn and light to carry, Patchwork also seems like a great game to bring on a picnic! Just make sure you have plenty of room on your blanket; the box is small, but a fair amount of space is needed to spread out the patches.

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Staff Picks: Road Trip Audiobooks

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 1:10pm by eapearce

August is a great month for road trips, and it can be a challenge to stay entertained during long hours of traveling. One solution is to listen to an audiobook! There are several ways to listen to audiobooks for FREE through AADL. You can check out audiobooks through the Libby app, formerly known as OverDrive, and you can check out physical books on CD to listen to at any of our library locations!

Here are a few of our favorite audiobooks!

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders | Request Now

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Staff Picks: Grab a Book, See the World!

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 12:50pm by eapearce

Reading a book lets you step out of your real life for a little while and enter different worlds—sometimes in small ways and sometimes in vast ones. One of the best things about reading is picturing places we’ve never been or haven’t been to in a long time. Here are some recommendations that will transport you to destinations near and far.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon | Request Now
Cover of Blue Highways by William Least Heat-MoonFirst published in 1982, Blue Highways is the acclaimed memoir of Heat-Moon’s three-month soul-searching travels around the United States in the late 1970s. After experiencing some personal troubles, Heat-Moon, who is of Osage heritage, equipped his van with a bed, portable toilet, and additional storage space and set out on a road trip, sticking only to what he called “blue highways”--the small, out-of-the-way, and sometimes forgotten roads of rural America. He traveled nearly 13,000 miles, stopped in small towns with names that interested him, avoided major cities and thoroughfares, and engaged the variety of people he met in conversation. The stories that emerge from his travels are fascinating, thought-provoking, sometimes uplifting and sometimes sad. The forty years that have elapsed since its publication make Blue Highways no less worth reading!

 

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Staff Picks: Great Books from 2021 You Might Have Missed

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 10:29am by emjane

So many amazing and meaningful books come out EVERY YEAR and it's IMPOSSIBLE to read them all. Maybe you missed hearing about a title. Maybe you peeped at the hold list and thought “another time.” That time is now! Here are four great books that came out in 2021 that are worth circling back for!

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton | Request Now
Cover of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton, orange in the center with the silhouette of a guitar and within the guitar body the silhouette of a person in profileOpal, a young Black woman in 1970s Detroit is ready to leave her Michigan life behind when she’s discovered by British up-and-coming musician Nev at a nightclub show. The two talents find great success, but reach an explosive end after Opal protests the racist actions of another band on their label. Told from multiple characters’ perspectives, Opal & Nev, unravels the story from the 1970s while also chronicling an attempt to reunite the two for one last performance in the modern day. The use of multiple narrators keeps the book propelling forward – I found myself wanting to set aside all responsibilities and just sit with the book until I made it to the end!

 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #814

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 5:22pm by muffy

alais_emmaAlias Emma * * *  (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Ava Glass (the pseudonym for a best-selling novelist, the first in a planned series) is an “adrenaline-fueled tour of clandestine London.” (Library Journal) 

In the last two weeks, 4 Russian scientists defected to the UK have been assassinated, with the efficiency and audacity, hallmark of the Russian military spy agency GRU. Now, Emma Makespeace, a newly-minted MI6 secret agent, has been assigned to protect their next target - Michael Primalov, a London pediatric oncologist and son of high-valued Russian dissidents. Trying to convince Michael that his life is in danger and to accept her protection is no easy task. He is finally convinced when they are attacked on the London street. 

But something is wrong. When Emma’s request to bring MIchael in is denied and a cryptic message left by her trusted mentor instructs her to “go dark” since London's famous Ring of Steel has been hacked by the Russian government, the pair must cross the city without being seen by the hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras. To reach safety, Emma leads Michael through alleys, sewer tunnels, and back channels that don't appear in any guide book. 

In this breakneck, race-against-the-clock thriller, readers might want to ask, at some point….Should Michael trust Emma? For nothing about Emma Makepeace is real. Not even her name.

“Intense, cinematic action propels this terrific old-fashioned thriller neatly brought up to date. Glass is off to an impressive start.” (Publishers Weekly)

According to Spyscape  "Alias Emma (2022) is already in pre-production at The Ink Factory, the London studio that produced the John le Carré series The Little Drummer Girl and The Night Manager."

* * * 3 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #813 - Locked-Room Mysteries

Sun, 07/31/2022 - 11:15am by muffy

dath_of_the_conjurorDeath and the Conjuror: A Joseph Spector Locked-Room Mystery(also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Tom Mead, a series launch that features a magician-turned-sleuth in 1936 London, “a valentine to the locked-room puzzles of John Dickson Carr, to whom it is dedicated. “ (Kirkus Reviews)

Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Anselm Rees, a recent arrival from Vienna, has taken up residence at Dollis Hill. On a rainy night, after a secretive visit from a guest, he is discovered dead in his locked study. With no clues, no witnesses, and no murder weapon, George Flint, a stumped Scotland Yard detective calls on retired stage magician-turned-part-time sleuth Joseph Spector for help. 

As they interview the colorful cast of suspects among the psychiatrist's patients and household: Floyd Stenhouse, Patient A, a Philharmonic violinist tormented by dreams of snakes; Della Cookson, Patient B, a kleptomaniac actress currently starring in Miss Death, which has just opened at the Pomegranate Theatre; and Claude Weaver, Patient C, a suspense novelist subject to blackouts, they uncover no shortage of dark secrets or motives for murder.

“Mead maintains suspense throughout, creating a creepy atmosphere en route to satisfying reveals. Puzzle mystery fans will eagerly await the sequel.” (Publishers Weekly)

under_lock_and_skeleton_keyUnder Lock & Skeleton Key (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), the first book in Gigi Pandian’s Secret Staircase mystery series, flawlessly balances magic, misdirection and murder.

26-year-old Tempest Raj, a popular Vegas magician, returns home to Hidden Creek, California, broke and disgraced after a dangerous stunt in her new show goes horribly wrong. Reluctantly, she starts working at Secret Staircase Construction, her father’s business that specializes in bringing magic to their clients homes - secret passageways, sliding bookcases, intricate locks and hidden entrances. 

On the site of their latest job, Tempest discovers a body inside a wall that's been sealed for decades - THE body of her former stage double, Cassidy Sparrow who Tempest suspects sabotaged her Vegas show. 

This "Secret Staircase" series starter is a fresh and magical locked-room mystery filled with fascinating and likable characters, incredible settings, and Tempest's grandfather's home cooked Indian meals (recipes included)...Readers will enjoy not only figuring out the mystery but also learning how the magic tricks are done.” (Library Journal)

BONUS FEATURE

christie_affairThe Christie Affair  * * * by Nina de Gramont (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is the “fanciful reimagining of actual events“ (Booklist) in the life of Agatha Christie on the author's mysterious, 11-day disappearance in December 1926, shortly after Christie's husband, Archie, revealed he was having an affair with Nan O'Dea, and wanted a divorce. 

Amidst the national manhunt for the celebrated author, Agatha and Nan met up at the fashionable spa town of Harrogate where a series of impossible crimes occurred. 

“The author weaves a clever, highly original, mesmerizing tale filled with strange and unexpected turns and concludes it in an unexpected but wholly satisfying manner. With its superb writing, strong characterizations, and wonderfully imaginative plot, this is a must-read for fans of romance, history, or mystery.” (Booklist)

“Devilishly clever, elegantly composed and structured—simply splendid.” (Kirkus Reviews)

woman_in_the_libraryThe Woman in the Library * * *  by Australian author Sulari Gentill (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) opens with four strangers sharing a table at the Boston Public Library. Writer Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid, recipient of a prestigious writers’ residency fellowship, named them "Freud Girl," "Heroic Chin," and "Handsome Man" before she gets to know them as Marigold Anastas, Whit Metters and Cain McLeod when they heard a woman's terrified scream. As they wait for the all-clear from Security, a quick friendship forms. Then they read that a woman’s body had been found in the Library. The subsequent story is Freddie's account of their relationship and her growing awareness that one of them is likely the murderer. 

“But Hannah Tignone, a best-selling Australian author, is actually writing the story of Freddie and her new friends. The story within a story alternates Hannah's writing with letters written to her by a wannabe author, Leo…Freddie's account of trying to discover which of her new friends is a killer is an engrossing mystery…Ned Kelly Award winner Gentill presents a complex, riveting story within a story.” (Library Journal)

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The Locked Room: A Ruth Galloway Mysteries by Elly Griffiths (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).

Three years after her mother's death, Ruth is finally sorting through her things when she finds a curious relic: a decades-old photograph of her own Norfolk cottage--before she lived there--with a peculiar inscription on the back. Ruth returns to the cot­tage to uncover its meaning as Norfolk's first cases of Covid-19 make headlines, leaving her and Kate to shelter in place there. They struggle to stave off isolation by clapping for frontline workers each evening and befriending a kind neighbor, Zoe, from a distance.

Meanwhile, Detective Nelson (and Kate's father) is investigating a series of deaths of women that may or may not be suicide. When he links a case to an archaeological dis­covery, he breaks curfew to visit Ruth and enlist her help. But the further Nelson investigates the deaths, the closer he gets to Ruth's isolated cot­tage--until Ruth, Zoe, and Kate all go missing, and Nelson is left scrambling to find them before it's too late.

Readers of locked-room mysteries might also what to check out CrimeReads’ The Great Locked Room Mystery: My Top 10 Impossible Crimes.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* = Starred review

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Staff Picks: Stay Cool With a Beach Read

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 8:00am by eapearce

It’s hot out there! Even if you can’t jet off to a breezy beach, you can still dive into a beach read and escape. Here are a few staff recommendations that will make you feel like you have your toes in the sand!

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | Request Now

The Unhoneymooners by Christina LaurenThis romantic comedy features the classic enemies-to-lovers storyline, but tells the story in a fun, fresh way. Olive has always felt like the unlucky one compared to her twin, Ami. Fresh off of a layoff, Olive is prepared to grit her teeth through Ami’s sure-to-be-perfect wedding and do her best to spend the day avoiding Ethan, the best man that she’s always hated. Unfortunately, the wedding turns out to be not so perfect after all, when everyone but Olive and Ethan are struck with food poisoning. Too ill to go on their Hawaii honeymoon, Ami and her new husband offer up the trip to the two enemies. Determined to enjoy the paid-for vacation to paradise, Olive and Ethan agree to a temporary truce and to try and make the best of the situation. But as the two enjoy the sparkling beaches of Maui, Olive begins to wonder if perhaps the truce shouldn’t be so temporary after all….

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Staff Picks: Books About Food (and snacks to eat while you read them)

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 8:00am by emjane

Cookbooks are wonderful, but sometimes you just want to READ about food, right? As someone whose two main hobbies are reading and cooking, I found these books to be DELICIOUS! Theme some snacks if you’re feeling ambitious, or just bite into a great culinary read!

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson | Request Now

Black Cake by Charmaine WilkersonByron and his somewhat estranged sister Benny are thrust back together following the death of their mother, Eleanor. Eleanor’s untraditional inheritance includes a frozen piece of black cake, a traditional recipe from their Caribbean heritage, and a recording of Eleanor telling her story to her children. Interweaving Eleanor’s historical story rife with family secrets and Byron & Benny’s present-day challenges reckoning with their grief and each other, Black Cake is a full-flavored story of intrigue, history, and family.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #812 - Debut Cozies

Sun, 07/24/2022 - 5:55pm by muffy

marlow_murder_club

The Marlow Murder Club * * is a series launch for Robert Thorogood (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), a screewriter/novelist, and the creator of BBC One murder mystery series Death in Paradise.

77 year-old Judith Potts, a crossword puzzle setter for The Times, lives a contented life in the village of Marlow ever since inheriting a grand mansion from her great-aunt. One evening while out skinny-dipping on the Thames, she heard a gunshot coming from her neighbor Stefan Dunwoody’s garden. When the police found Stephen’s body in the river the next day, they called it a suicide. A suspicious Judith decides to investigate.  Soon she is joined by Susie Harris, a no-nonsense dog walker, and Becks Starling, the much put-upon local vicar’s wife. Together they called themselves the Marlow Murder Club.  Then more bodies turn up, suggesting a serial killer is on the loose. 

“How these women of a certain age unite to solve the crime is as entertaining and intriguing as the fair play mystery itself. The way the characters evolve as their relationships grow sets this light mystery above the pack.” (Publishers Weekly) 

Fans of Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club will like the amateur sleuths introduced in this puzzle…While avid mystery readers might recognize the twist, the finale and its grand solution are worthy of Agatha Christie. (Library Journal) 

If you’ve binge-watched M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series, and BBC’s Hetty Wainthropp Investigates (based on characters from the novel by David Cook) you would find Judith Potts simply irresistible. 

botanists_guide

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook)

London, 1923. In this debut and series launch, Saffron Everleigh, the only female research assistant at University College London, hopes to follow in her famous father’s footsteps. Estranged from her family due to her ambition and slighted by her male colleagues at every turn, she finds in Dr. Maxwell, a kind and supportive mentor. 

One evening, Saffron attends a dinner party hosted by Sir Edward Leister, the donor supporting the biology department's forthcoming Amazon expedition, when Mrs. Henry, one of the professor’s wives drops to the floor, apparently poisoned by a toxin. As evidence points to Dr. Maxwell who brought back the suspected plant from a previous expedition, Saffron realizes it's up to her to clear Dr. Maxwell's name.  Joined by fellow botanist Alexander Ashton, a battle-fatigued WWI veteran, “(t)he duo investigate rancorous academic rivalries, libidinous faculty members, and gardens and greenhouses filled with lethal plants.” (Publishers Weekly)  

“An exciting debut with a determined protagonist whose future is sure to contain romance and mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews) Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber.

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #811 - Romance, By The Book

Sun, 07/10/2022 - 10:43am by muffy

roughest_draft

The Roughest Draft * *  by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), is the first book for adults by married YA coauthors

As soon as Katrina Freeling and Nathan Van Huysen’s mega-bestseller romance hit the literary market three years ago, they went their separate ways. Nathan is now divorced, living in Brooklyn while Katrina, engaged to their agent Chris, calls L.A. home and has given up writing all together. Now personal and professional circumstances force them to return to the Key West beach house, to work on one final book due on contract. “They hole up in Florida and insult each other through drafting their new manuscript--until their true feelings reveal themselves on the page.” (Publishers Weekly) 

 “In intricate layers, Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka unfurl what went wrong between Katrina and Nathan and how their past anger transmutes into desire and soul-binding love, making for a deeply emotional meditation on the psychological perils of success within a passionate romance.” (Booklist)

“This will-they-or-won’t-they romance is perfect for readers who enjoy friends-to-lovers, or anyone pursuing a passion project professionally. For fans of Emily Henry’s Beach Read, Minnie Darke’s Star-Crossed, and Christina Lauren’s Twice in a Blue Moon.” (Library Journal)

dead_romantics

The Dead Romantics,* Ashley Poston’s adult fiction debut (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “a refreshing rom-com about love, loss, and hope.” (Publishers Weekly) 

Florence Day, ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, is struggling to finish the 4th book in her contract, ever since a bitter betrayal broke her heart, and she no longer believes in love. A plea for an extension from her new editor, Benji Andor is denied, and just then, her mother calls to tell her her beloved father had died unexpectedly.  So Florence heads home after an absence of 10 years, to help bury her father. 

At the Day’s Funeral Parlor where, for generations, the family has tended to the town’s dearly departed, Florence hopes her father’s ghost would appear to say goodbye.  Instead, she finds the ghost of the broad and infuriatingly handsome Benji Andor at the front door. Now, Florence must contend with Ben’s confused ghost following her around town, and their unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

“The zippy banter between Florence and nearly everyone she meets keeps things moving at a sprightly clip. Every interaction is a delight, and getting to know the cast of characters in Florence’s orbit adds excitement to the book. The romance takes a bit longer to build, though, and flits in and out of focus. Florence and Ben share such chemistry that it’s a shame readers are often left waiting for them to interact. The ghostly element is fun and fresh, adding slightly higher stakes to Florence and Ben's happily-ever-after. A sweet and sparkling adult debut.” (Kirkus Reviews)

AUDIO PICKS

meet_me_in_the_marginsIn Meet Me in the Margins (audiobook, also available in downloadable eBook) by Melissa Ferguson, when the editor-in-chief of the most successful romance imprint requests to see Savannah Cade’s manuscript that she has been working on in secret, she is thrilled, but as an editor in a highbrow publisher of literary fiction, it would have to remain her secret…. until she drops her manuscript during a staff meeting to introduce William Pennington, the new publisher. In a panic, she hides it in the secret turret room of the old Victoria office. 

When she has the chance to retrieve it, she’s dismayed to discover that someone has written notes in the margins, and quite critical too.  As the deadline for submission draws near, Savannah is forced to seek the help of her secret “editor”, and to be honest, Savannah realizes she is actually falling for him, whoever he is. 

 

by_any_other_nameLauren Kate’s first adult Rom-Com By Any Other Name * (audiobook, also available in downloadable eBook) is an enemies-to-lovers romance about an editor, her bestselling author, and one life-changing secret. 

Elaine “Lanie” Bloom, romance editor at Peony Press is given the opportunity of a lifetime - to work with renowned but elusive Noa Callaway, who is suffering an impossible writer’s block. Lanie soon discovers that her favorite author with whom she had worked for years via email is in fact, Noah Ross, the attractive mystery man she recently met at a book launch.  In the meantime, Lanie is having second thoughts about her fiance, Ryan, a handsome political hopeful with presidential aspirations, who would like nothing more than for her to quit her job to become the next FLOTUS (First Ladies of the United States)-in-training. Suddenly, everything she thought she knew about love, her relationship, and Noah’s novels comes crashing down

“Most readers won’t be surprised to discover the reason Noa is so reclusive, but this doesn’t take away from enjoying the slow burning central relationship. Kate surrounds both Noa and Lanie with well-drawn friends and family who add welcome backstory and create a sense that these are two people with full lives outside of each other meeting in the middle. The result is both smart and adorable.“ (Publishers Weekly)

* * = 2 starred reviews

* = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #810 - Her Father's Secrets

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS FEATURE

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

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

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

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

 * *  = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #809 - The Caper Novel

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

portrait_of_a_thief

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

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

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

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

BONUS FEATURE

coounterfeit

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

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

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

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

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #808

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

remarkably_bring_creatures

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

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

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

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

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

 * * * = 3 starred reviews

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June Service Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #807

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #806

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

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

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

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

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

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

 * *  = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #805

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

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

lessons_in_chemistry

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to this delightful NPR interview with the author.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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

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

department_of_rare_books

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

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

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

 

verifiers

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

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

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

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

violin_conspiracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 * = Starred review

 * * *  = 3 starred reviews

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

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

unsinkable_greta_james

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

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

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

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

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

love_list_&_fancy_ships

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS FEATURE

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

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

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

* *  = 2 starred reviews

* = Starred review

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Eli Neiburger Named Director of the Ann Arbor District Library

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

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

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

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