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Festive Fall Books

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 8:50pm by copelands

Bright pumpkins. Warm apple cider and doughnuts. Falling leaves with beautiful colors. Sweater season. Fall is here! Fall is a time of new beginnings and there’s plenty to celebrate this season. Embrace the beauty and splendor of autumn with these picture books that celebrate all the wonder it brings!

Bella’s Fall Coat: Bella is a little girl who loves fall and wants it to last forever. The coat her grandmother made keeps her warm and cozy and when it becomes too small, Bella can’t part with her favorite item. Told through beautiful illustrations, she ultimately learns how to adapt to the inevitable concept of change.

Wonderfall: Author, illustrator, and Ann Arbor native Michael Hall writes about a tree that is shown throughout the entire fall season, from the end of summer to the first snowfall. People, vehicles, and animals pass by the changing tree; going back to school, celebrating holidays, and preparing for winter. Information is also given on the animals, acorns, and saplings and the process each goes through in preparation for winter.

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Blackletter for Halloween!

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:20pm by aadlloren

The bold, severe style of Blackletter calligraphy feels right at home on certificates, diplomas, and Halloween greeting cards! Its repetitive upright structure makes it a great starting point for beginning calligraphers and lettering enthusiasts. Also known as Gothic script, Blackletter is formed with a crisp chisel (broad-edged) pen, but you can also try drawing its distinctive letters in pencil.

Watch Loren demonstrate how to write Blackletter on AADL.TV. He uses an inexpensive disposable nylon-tip broad-edge pen.

Try making Blackletter yourself! You can download and print these basic guides to get you started:

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Have You Tried Amaro Yet?

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 12:01pm by mbt

cover of Amaro bookA couple of years ago a friend introduced me to amaro. At the time I had never heard of it and no one I knew was drinking it. Now? Pre-pandemic I was able to have a flight of amaros at two Ann Arbor restaurants and stores have begun stocking a variety of choices. So just what is Amaro and why is becoming  the new thing?

The introduction in Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons made me laugh as he describes his experience in a small Seattle bar known for its apertifs. The description of a couple ordering V&T's when the opportunity to experience something new and different is priceless. That alone will make you love the world of Amaro that Parsons takes you into. 

Amari, yes the plural of Amaro, is hard to describe. Amaro is Italian for bitter and that is about the only thing definite when comparing varieties. When friends ask me what Amaro is I usually respond “a nice nightcap”, but for many others it is the key ingredient in a variety of cocktails. Known as an after-dinner digestif, amaro is a herbal liqueur, often bitter, but it is oh, so much more.  Read Parsons section Understanding Amaro and you will start to see the complexity of the world of Amaro. Read the entire book and you may start shaking up some tasty cocktails at your next social distancing, outdoor gathering. Or, like me, you may just be making your own amaro through the upcoming long winter. 

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Good Morning

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 4:25pm by garlandz


Do you know this word? if not-- that's okay. It means "good morning" in Japanese. Language can divide people, but, it doesn't mean that we all are that different. Yet when we find differences in others, how do we handle them? Well that is one of the questions implied in the movie "Good Morning" by filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu.

Good Morning (1959 film)

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The Chalk Man

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 6:13pm by manz

chalk manLooking for a fast-paced thriller to get you in the mood for spooky reading season? The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor fits the bill! I was drawn to this book because it’s a coming-of-age story with an element of horror, in the same vein as Stand By Me, IT, or Stranger Things. Set in England, The Chalk Man takes place in both 1986 and 2016. 

It follows the story of Eddie and his best friends. As 12 year olds they rode around on bikes having little adventures, and they used chalk drawings on pavement as a secret way of communicating with each other. Something terrifying happens that summer and they are forever changed by it. Fast forward to 2016. Now adults, Eddie finds a chalk drawing that instantly takes him back to that horrifying summer. But who sent this new chalk drawing? What is still out there? 

It’s a debut book for this author, and it isn’t perfect, but it’s very rare I read a book so suspenseful I can’t put it down. Will you follow the chalk drawings? 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #757, The Other Casablanca

Sat, 10/17/2020 - 5:34pm by muffy

straight_from_the_horses_mouthStraight From the Horse's Mouth * by Moroccan author Meryem Alaoui (translated from the French by 2018 Albertine Prize-winner Emma Ramadan) introduces the “resourceful, foul-mouthed, and spirited Jmiaa Bent Larbi” (Publishers Weekly), a 34 year-old sex worker navigating life in a working class Casablanca neighborhood. 

Stoic without being bitter, brutally honest without being sentimental, Jmiaa recounts her courtship with the devilishly handsome Hamid, their marriage against the wishes of her family, and how once Hamid moved them to Casablanca, he began to pimp her out to his friends to finance a constant stream of get-rich schemes. Now 15 year later, Jmiaa still works the same street and struggles to earn enough money to support a young daughter and Hamid who has since been smuggled into Spain. Life, however, is not without its pleasures - the quiet moments with her daughter, watching tv, drinking and gossiping with the other girls, and the occasional drive with a favorite client. 

Unexpectedly, Jmiaa is introduced to Chadlia, a Dutch expat. filmmaker she calls “Horse Mouth” because of her toothy smile, who presents her with an exciting opportunity. Chadlia is making a film about the working women of Morocco, and eventually casts Jmiaa as the lead. Over the next three years, her life changes in ways she never could have imagined. 

Jmiaa's Casablanca is full of corrupt cops and exploitative men who take advantage of the prostitutes' vulnerability, but it is also full of friendship, laughter, and triumph….Alaoui's shimmering prose is funny and original; Jmiaa, noting Horse Mouth's Arabic is unusually fluent for an immigrant, says, "Normally it's like their tongue is in physical therapy: it needs crutches to get to the end of a phrase." Alaoui's tale is one to savor for its language and its verve.” (Publishers Weekly)  

 *  = Starred review

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Fri, 10/16/2020 - 1:54pm by fredbeldin

curse of the cat peopleDespite a florid title suggesting cardboard castles and Halloween mask monsters, The Curse of the Cat People is a sublimely strange fantasy/drama more interested in exploring the psychology of children than perpetuating a hit film franchise. Seven year old Amy spends her days suspended in daydreams, making her an outcast at school and misunderstood by her career-minded parents. Her father punishes her over flights of fancy he interprets as lying; her mother frets but cedes most of the parenting duties to household servants. Amy's parents are haunted by the tragedy of the husband’s former wife, a troubled woman whose violent death was a defining moment in the lives of both partners. Amy knows nothing of this when she finds a photo of the beautiful, doomed woman and begins to fantasize about her as a glamorous imaginary friend.

Producer/screenwriter Val Lewton enjoyed a surprise horror hit with Cat People in 1942, but was reluctant to make a sequel despite pressure from studio bosses. His solution was simply to subvert the desires of the marketplace, accept the schlocky title assigned to him and follow his own muse. The result is a gentle, eerie fairy tale filled with bewitching images of shadows and snowstorms which surely disappointed horror fans of the day but stands alone as a uniquely affecting experience. The Curse of the Cat People can be found at the AADL on DVD, paired with the original classic that inspired its creation. Watch the sequel first.

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Where can I get recommendations for new books or movies.. for kids?

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 8:46pm by Staffsteph

Are you struggling to find new media for your kids? Here are a few sites that I like to use to find something new for a kid to read or watch. - Common Sense Media is designed for parents looking for something for their kids to read or watch. It has lists that you can browse based on the age of the child. For example, you could look at their “best books” page and select ‘Tweens (10-12)’ and select “Kids books about France” if your child is interested in France at the moment. Once you find a book (or movie) or if you already had one in mind, you can use Common Sense Media to see if it is the right one for your child. If you go to a books page it will give you a deep dive on the contents of the book such as telling you how much violence and what type is present and what positive messages are offered in that specific book. I think this is a great tool to know what is the right book for your child. - This one is another great one for kids. I use this site primarily for the lists they offer. They have lists of books for all ages from babies to teenagers and a huge variety of topics. Is your child interested in space? Check out their list “Far Out Space Books for Future Astronauts” to get some suggestions on what they can read next. This site also offers activity suggestions for kids and articles about parenting for the grown-ups. 

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Where can I get recommendations for new books or movies?

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 8:35pm by Staffsteph

When I’m asked to provide recommendations for a new book or movie I’m sometimes at a loss for what to suggest. I’m pretty good with Science Fiction and Fantasy, but even then my tastes for those genres might differ from yours. I often turn to the internet to get ideas of what to suggest. Here are a few of my favorite sites: - You can make an account to rate items and get better recommendations, but it’s not needed. This site offers recommendations for many things including books, movies, music and even videogames. You just type in a title or author you enjoy and it will spit out a bunch of books similar that you might also enjoy. It also has some genres on the left hand side that you can check to get more detailed suggestions. Did you really like “Seveneves” but right now you are looking for a Crime novel? Tastedive has you covered. Try “Lock in” by John Scalzi it says. - You can use limited functions of Goodreads without an account, but it does work best with an account (which is free). If you rate a certain number of books (I believe it’s 100), Goodreads will start recommending books to you. You can limit the suggestions to genre as well. You can also track what books you have read in goodreads and goodreads will start taking those into account when suggesting books to you. You can also search for a book and see similar titles by selecting the button on the right hand side of the page “See similar books..” (it’s a really small button). Goodreads recommends “The Three-Body Problem” if you enjoyed “Seveneves”. 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #756, Reservation Blues

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 2:57pm by muffy

crooked_hallelujahCrooked Hallelujah * * (also available in downloadable eBook) by Paris Review's Plimpton Prize winner Kelli Jo Ford, has been named one of New York Times Editors' Choice. In a series of linked stories, it follows a family of Cherokee women, proud and stubborn, who sacrifice for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. 

The narrative opens in 1974, in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma when 15 year-old Justine finds herself pregnant after being raped by a local boy. Abandoned by her father, she bristles under the watchful eyes of her mother, Lula and Granny, devout members of the Holiness Church where her uncle is the minister.  Wanting to reconnect with her father, she moves to the Red River region of Texas, hoping to start a new, more stable life with daughter, Reney. 

Against the backdrop of oil bust of the 1980s, a grown-up Reney finds herself unmoored from her family in Indian Country. After several miscarriages, supporting a physically abusive husband, holding down a job at the local Dairy Queen, life is bleak. “Later, Ford gives Reney opportunities to pursue a healthy relationship, an education, and a stronger understanding of the legacy of her family and heritage. Ford's storytelling is urgent, her characters achingly human and complex, and her language glittering and rugged. This is a stunner.” (Publishers Weekly) 

A tender and ambitious praise-song of a novel about a family's fight for survival, love, and home.“ (Kirkus Reviews)

winter_countsWinter Counts * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by David Heska Wanbli Weiden is set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where the American judicial system and the Tribal Council often fail to mete out justice. In those instances, one would look to Virgil Wounded Horse, an enforcer-for-hire to deliver punishment. 

A reformed alcoholic, Virgil is now guardian to his 14-year-old nephew, Nathan after a car accident killed his sister three years ago. When Nathan is caught with enough prescription pills in his school locker and faces 30 years in prison, Virgil’s vigilantism suddenly becomes personal.

With the help of Marie Short Bear, his ex-girlfriend & the councilman's daughter, they must find out how heroin makes its way into the reservation and prove Nathan's innocence. Their investigations  lead them to Denver and a drug cartel.

“The novel twists delicately around various personal conflicts while artfully addressing issues related to the politics of the reservation. Weiden combines funny, complex, and unforgettable characters with strong, poetic prose (“This was the winter of my sorrow, one I had tried to elude but which had come for me with a terrible cruelty”). This is crime fiction at its best. “ (Publishers Weekly) 

“Weiden's series-launch sheds much-needed light on the legal and societal barriers facing Native Americans while also delivering a suspenseful thriller that builds to a bloody climax. A worthy addition to the burgeoning canon of indigenous literature.” (Library Journal)

* * = 2 Starred reviews

* = Starred review