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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #799

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 * * * *  = 4 starred reviews

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Playing with Math

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

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

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

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

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Resources for Foster Parents

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

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

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

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

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The "Great Resignation" on the Bookshelf

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 * = Starred review

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

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

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

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

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

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Slow Cooking Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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AADL Seeks Bids for Roof Replacement at the Downtown Library

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

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

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

Scope of Work:

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The Tea Dragon Society

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

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

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


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Take a Vacation to Your Own Homeschool!

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

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

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

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

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #797

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your new year be filled with hope and kindness.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #796

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* * = 2 starred reviews

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

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

AADL Five Star Library in 2021

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

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

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #795

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #794 - December

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

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

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

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

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

 * = Starred review

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For these, we are thankful : The Best of 2021

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

onlinePublishers Weekly’s Best of 2021:

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

Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2021:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Warming Up with the Tools Collection

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

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

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

Hopefully all this thinking has helped you start warming up!

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #793

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

* *  = 2 starred reviews

* = Starred review


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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out The New York Times Book Review.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #791, Magic, Mayhem and Metamorphosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Already optioned for film.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #790, British Rom-Com Debuts

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 7:46pm by muffy

battle_royalBattle Royal *  by Lucy Parker (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “(b)rimming with pop culture references and quick wit, (an) enemies-to-lovers romance that kicks off the Palace Insiders series. (Publishers Weekly) 

Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild was voted off the most popular television baking show Operation Cake due to an unfortunate mechanical malfunction with her glittery unicorn cake. Now she is to return to the show as a judge. The publicity would not only help her business Sugar Fair but might just get her shortlistedfor HRH Princess Rose's wedding cake. 

The only problem is Dominic De Vere, her fellow judge on the show, His Majesty the King’s favorite baker, brilliant, talented, hard-working, an icy grouch who would never let Sylvie live down the unicorn experience.  The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection. In this royal battle, can there be room for two?

“From the zippy dialogue and humorous banter exchanged between the book's perfectly matched protagonists to the delectable descriptions of sweet treats that would not be out of place in Willy Wonka's factory, this deliciously sexy love story whips up everything romance readers crave.” (Booklist)

ghostsGhosts (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is memoirist (Everything I Know About Love, 2020) Dolly Alderton’s debut novel. From a columnist for The Sunday Times Style and co-host of the weekly pop-culture and current affairs podcast The High Low  comes this “smart, sexy, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about ex-boyfriends, imperfect parents, friends with kids, and a man who disappears the moment he says "I love you."

32 years-old London food writer and author Nina Dean is in a good place - her second book is about to be published, she loves flat ownership, and she is on good terms with her ex, Joe. But with most of her friends married, having kids, and moving to the suburbs, she tries a dating app.  Seemingly impossible, she meets Max  - handsome, dishy, an accountant with an adventurous spirit, and they have chemistry. 

And if Max seems too good to be true, he is, forcing Nina to deal with everything she's been trying so hard to ignore: her father's Alzheimer's, her mother's denial, trouble with her editor; and being ghosted by her childhood best friend. ​​

“Alderton's fiction debut delivers a refreshing and clever meditation on a single British woman's late coming-of-age...Full of quirky characters, sardonic commentary, and millennial ruminations, Ghosts is for fans of the show Fleabag, Sally Rooney's Normal People (2020), and Lily King's Writers & Lovers (2021).” (Booklist)

mismatchThe Mismatch by Sara Jafari (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) Discussion questions for book groups included. 

Away at uni from her strict Muslim family, Soraya drinks, wears short skirts and talks to boys, never mind at 21, she has never been kissed.  As she is about to graduate with no job prospect, she knows she will be heading home. At a party, she sees her chance in Magnus Evans - rugby player, a notorious man-about-town, just the person with whom to get her first kiss "over with”. There is no risk of falling in love since Mangus is exactly whom her family would not approve of. 

Soraya's shocked to find that Magnus is nothing like she expected, and despite their wildly different backgrounds, they discover they have a lot in common.

“Jafari's authentic portrayal of the complexities of interracial dating is deeply emotional and her characters are refreshingly flawed: Magnus is charming and patient, but initially clueless about navigating cultural difference, while endearing Soraya feels intense emotion but bottles it up. Each scene of this moving love story reveals new depths.” (Publishers Weekly) 

* = Starred review

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Homeschooling Field Trip--to Outer Space!

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 12:58pm by mrajraspn08

History of Space puzzleYou may have heard about the upcoming Orionoids Meteor Shower or December’s complete lunar eclipse. While you’re checking out the Telescope, check out some other out of this world tools for learning about space!

If your child dreams of reaching for the stars, check out The History of Space Travel Puzzle. While you're putting it together, you can start talking about the various space missions that have occurred. Look at the ways the technology has evolved over the years, from the first launch to the most recent. How has this improved our space travel? How do these tools work? How do they compare with some you may have seen or read in sci-fi books and movies? How do you think they'll improve by the time you'd be starting your own space adventure? Older kids might want to watch the streaming video Functions and Relations, showing how to use advanced math principles as we plan space travel. See if you can apply those same principles to travel to a different planet in our solar system. Check out other videos on space travel in our streaming collection!

Now let's blast off on a journey of our own to visit the planet Venus with the Venus Globe! Venus is often compared to Earth. What similarities do you see between the planets? What differences? Do you think we’ll be able to live on Venus one day? Why or why not? Who knows--maybe you'll get the chance to some day!

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October Service Update

Fri, 10/01/2021 - 9:00am by richretyi

Expanded Hours
Starting Monday, October 18, all AADL locations will be open 10am-8pm daily. 

Early Access to Westgate
Starting Monday, October 18, AADL will resume early access to Westgate during morning Sweetwaters Cafe hours (click for Sweetwaters hours of operation). Westgate desk service begins at 10am daily.

More Than 10,000 New Streaming Videos Added to the Collection
AADL has added more than 10,000 new streaming movies, documentaries, and videos to its collection, including HBO miniseries, Ken Burns documentaries, and popular series like Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., and StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Click to see some of the popular titles in the collection, or browse the catalog at by searching for titles and clicking "Streaming Video" in the filter section.

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Homeschooling Fun at the Library!

Fri, 09/17/2021 - 3:40pm by mrajraspn08

Arctic and Antarctic Bagimals kit

Last year, many parents found themselves unexpectedly homeschooling. Over a year later, some of us still are, by choice or necessity. Whether you’re an experienced homeschooler or a complete novice, the library is here to help make lessons fun with our great tool collection!

My child’s favorite tool is the Bagimals. Even this simple tool can be used to inspire a lesson plan. Check out several Bagimals with your grade school kid and look at the animals and the environment they live in. Get one of the Early Learning Globes and figure out where each animal lives in the world. Talk about the environment in each place; for older children, you can talk about how each animal evolved to be suited to its environment. Could a polar bear live in the desert? Why or why not? How might the animal have evolved if they lived in another environment? How do they co-exist with other animals and even people living in this environment?Early Learning Globe

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AADL Director Josie Parker Announces Retirement

Fri, 09/17/2021 - 9:30am by aadl-news

After nearly 22 years with the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL), Director Josie Parker announced her retirement effective February 28, 2022. Upon her retirement, Parker will have served as Library director for 20 years.

“It has been a joy and a privilege to serve the Ann Arbor community as Library Director for 20 years,” says Josie Parker. “I want to acknowledge the courage of all of the people who have served as elected Board members over these years. Without them, nothing was possible. The several hundred people who have worked with me as staff over two decades made the possible happen in amazing and astonishing ways. Lastly, but most importantly, all of the community members who responded to our efforts, challenged us to keep innovating and improving library services. I thank you all, and I will see you in the Library!”

The AADL Board of Trustees will conduct a national search for the next director beginning later this fall. 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #789, An Alternate Universe

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 2:20pm by muffy

master_of_djinnVoted one of the 50 Favorite Sci-Fi And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade by NPR readers, A Master of Djinn * * * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), is Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djeli Clark’s first full-length novel after a number of novellas, also set in an alternate Cairo universe. 

1912 Cairo is a bustling metropolis with commerce, intrigue, and steampunk technology. Fatma el-Sha’arawim, the youngest and only female agent of the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities is brought in to investigate multiple murders at the home of a wealthy British merchant. 

Ever since the mystic and inventor Al-Jahiz pierced the veil between realms decades ago, djinns, magical beings and humans have been living together in relative peace. Now someone claiming to be Al-Jahiz has murdered members of a secret brotherhood dedicated to his legacy at the eve of an international summit of major European powers that is likely to have global ramifications.  Together with her clever new partner, Agent Hadia Abdel Hafez, and her mercurial, half-djinn girlfriend, Siti, Fatma sets out to uncover the truth behind this self-professed prophet, and save the world from destruction. 

“The fantastical worldbuilding highlights the thematic issues of colonialism, spirituality, and race relations, while Clark's prose provides a cinematic lens to issues of gender and class viewed through Agent Fatma's investigations and relationships.” (Library Journal) 

“Give this to alternate history enthusiasts and mystery readers who enjoy a dose of the magical. Fans of S. A. Chakraborty, Martha Wells, and Zen Cho should be particularly pleased.” (Booklist) 

wisteria_societyThe Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), the first in the Dangerous Damsels series, is “a treat for readers who enjoy supernatural historical romances, wordplay, and quirky situations.” (Booklist) 

Miss Cecilia Bassingwaite, a junior member of the Wisteria Society, a crime sorority of thieves, pirates and assassins is eagerly anticipating induction into the highest rank (and a place at the high tea table) now that she has robbed a bank, mastered the skills of piloting flying battlehouses, and foiled an assassination attempt on her life. 

Before she could claim her seat at the tea table, all the members of the Society were kidnapped by the dreaded Bronte-obsessed, self-proclaimed poet Captain Morvath,  Cecilia has no choice but to team up with her devilishly handsome would-be assassin Ned Lightbourne, who may be a pirate employed by Captain Morvath, or a royal agent assigned to protect her. 

“In this joyride of a debut, Holton draws us into a madcap world of courtly corsairs, murderous matrons, and pity-inspiring henchmen. Familiar romance tropes appear but as if in a fun-house mirror, with broad winks at their origins, while characters make sarcastic references to passionate novels in the Victorian canon… As if The Parasol Protectorate series met The Princess Bride and a corseted Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.(Kirkus Reviews) 

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #788

Wed, 08/25/2021 - 6:56pm by muffy

 “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ~ Charles W. Eliot 

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.” ~ Katherine Mansfield 

reading_listThe Reading List * *  by Sara Nisha Adams (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).  17 year-old Aleisha, a summer desk clerk, is the first to find the list between pages of a returned book at the Harrow Road Library.  It reads JUST IN CASE YOU NEED IT, followed by eight titles: To Kill a Mockingbird, Rebecca, The Kite Runner, The Life of Pi, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Beloved, and A Suitable Boy. 

Just then, grieving widower Mukesh approaches the desk, intent to return a much-overdue copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife he found among his wife Naina’s things.  Never a reader, he nevertheless enjoyed the story and the opportunity to honor Naina's memory, he asked for Aleisha’s recommendations.  Caught unprepared, Aleisha remembered the list.  Intrigued, and a little bored, stuck at home, unable to reach her mentally-fragile mother,  she impulsively decides to read every book on the list as well. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between them. 

As it happens, the same list shows up at the shoe rack at the yoga studio, the bulletin board at the local supermarket, the bus stop,  and the community garden, drawing lonely strangers into the library and each other’s company. 

“Full of references to popular and classic novels, this debut focuses on reading as a means of processing and coping with challenging life events. The author deftly captures the quiet and listless vibe of ill-fated libraries everywhere. Told from the perspectives of both Aleisha and Mukesh, as well as a sampling of other characters, the story shows an insightful empathy for difficulties faced at divergent life stages. The author explores many difficult topics with grace, like mental illness, grief, abandonment, and self-doubt...A quiet and thoughtful look into loneliness, community, and the benefits of reading, suited for true bibliophiles.“ (Kirkus Reviews)

last_chance_libraryHey, if you are still on the waiting list, you might want to try The Last Chance Library  where a lonely librarian June Jones in a sleepy English village, joins a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to save the library, including old school friend Alex Chen, a successful lawyer newly back in town,  This is BBC  documentary producer Freya Sampson's debut novel.

 * *  = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #787, Fantasy Debuts

Tue, 08/17/2021 - 9:03pm by muffy

for_the_wolfFor the Wolf * * * *  by Hannah Whitten, the first in the Wilderwood series, (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “a dark, dazzling reimagining of the Brothers Grimm’s Little Red Riding Hood(Publishers Weekly) 

For centuries, the Kingdom of Valleyda kept a bargain : to hold the monsters of the Shadowlands at bay, the second daughter born to the queen would be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wilderwood, a magical forest. Now, Red(arys), as she approaches her 20th birthday, is almost eager to embrace her fate, plagued by a secret power she could not control. 

The Wolf, as it turned out,  is a man - Eammon who offers to release her. But Red chooses to stay. As real danger lurks round them, Red’s magic makes her a powerful ally as Eammon struggles to repair the woods, keeping out the dark creatures from the Shadowlands. 

“Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss. A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

maliceMalice * by Heather Walter (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is imaginative retelling of Sleeping Beauty with sly references to Cinderella.

Princess Aurora, the last in a long line of princesses cursed by a wicked Vila, an evil race of magical beings, is the last heir to the Briar’s throne. Now the Vilas have all died out, except of Alyce, called "Malyce" by the Graces she lives with at Lavender House. The Graces, gold-blooded and gifted with Fae magic, is part of an alliance between the humans of Briar and the Fae of Etheria, while Alyce, known as the Dark Grace, is rejected publicly, even as the rich and powerful solicit her dark magic in secret. 

Thus, it is assumed that the invitation to Princess Aurora's 20th birthday ball does not extend to Alyce, but she attends anyway. There she meets the princess, who is desperate to break the Vila curse that will kill her on her 21st birthday if she hasn't found true love. As their friendship grows, Alyce agrees to help Aurora lift the curse, even if it would destroy her own power.

"The story grows deliciously darker at every turn, though the youthful protagonists still ensure plenty of YA crossover appeal. Fairy tale lovers of all ages will be thrilled." (Publishers Weekly)

she_who_becomes_the _sunShe Who Became the Sun * * *  by Shelley Parker-Chan, the first in the Radiant Emperor duology, an epic high-fantasy series, gives the historical Red Turban Rebellion a grimdark twist (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).  The author was awarded a Otherwise (Tiptree) Fellowship for a work of speculative narrative that expands our understanding of gender.

1345. In Mongol-ruled China, the Zhu family, starving peasants in the Central Plains , at great expense they could ill afford, consulted a local fortune teller who proclaimed that their eight-born son, Zhu Chongba was destined for greatness while second daughter - nothingness. Yet, when a bandit attack orphaned the two children, Zhu Chongba succumbed to despair and died while the girl assumed her brother's identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. Propelled by a burning desire to survive, She learned she was capable of doing whatever it took. When her monastery was burned for supporting a rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu threw herself into her brother's path for greatness.

In this Mulan meets The Song of Achilles, “The characters are bold and complex in this story of fealty, family, and self. Epic worldbuilding, high action, and ruthless shades of love and desire make the tale at turns tragic and inspiring. Parker-Chan's debut is forceful, immersive, and unforgettable. This inspired queer retelling of Chinese history is an exciting read.” (Library Journal)  For fans of The Poppy War.

* * * * =  4 starred reviews

* * * = 3 starred reviews

* = Starred review