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The Ninth Hour

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 5:48pm

The Ninth Hour, Alice McDermott’s latest novel, radiates a feeling of quietude, stillness, though, in the first pages of this novel, an immense action is unfolding. McDermott fans will find here the usual fluidity of writing as she spans across decades with grace. The Ninth Hour is written with precision, full of small particulars that grapple with big questions. The words unfold calmly, belying the action that they hold. The plot is not full of twists and turns but does have it’s fair share of scandal, especially to the Catholic Church, within whose rules and rituals this novel is framed. There is infidelity here, suicide.

The story begins with a young man taking his own life and in doing so, leaving behind a pregnant widow. When their daughter, Sally, is born, both mother and daughter come to rely heavily on the sisterhood of nuns who helped with mourning, grieving, and pregnancy. The Ninth Hour is mostly Sally’s story, as told by her children, but also, the story of the sisters who raised her. Through details revealed as to who these nuns were before they took their vows, we catch a glimpse of the women beneath the wimples. Despite personality differences and backgrounds, the nuns, as a whole, have a great capacity for dispensing care. McDermott’s quiet strength lies in these intensely observed characters.

As Sally passes through adolescence, she thinks she too will become a nun. Her first test comes on a journey to a convent in Chicago. A train ride reveals to her the most basic of human needs and desires, “a sampling of the ‘others’ she was giving her life to: vulgar, unkempt, ungrateful.”
As she strives to be good, Sally wonders if one person’s penance can guarantee salvation for someone else. This is a question at the root of McDermott’s exploration of family, sin, religion, and the influence of the past. Put aptly by Lily King, in her review in The Washington Post, “There are so many ways to read this beautiful novel: as a Greek tragedy with its narrative chorus and the sins of the fathers; as a Faulknerian tale out to prove once more that the 'past is not even past'; as a gothic tale wrestling with faith, punishment and redemption à la Flannery O’Connor; or as an Irish novel in the tradition of Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín, whose sentences, like hers, burn on the page.”

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Endangered Birds

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 1:00pm

On July 4, 2017 I saw a bald eagle flying over the Huron River! It was the first time I had ever seen a bald eagle in the wild. During the past several decades bald eagles were a very rare sight in the Ann Arbor area. After reductions in the use of dangerous pesticides such as DDT and 40 years on the endangered species list, bald eagle populations have significantly recovered in southeastern Michigan and around the United States.

”Bald Eagle Numbers Soaring in SE Michigan” is a short article in The Daily Telegraph (published in Adrian, MI). It has information on the recovery of bald eagles in southeast Michigan.

You can find out more about both Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds of North America Online database is a very informative resource. You can find it by subject under “Science & Technology”, or you can find it alphabetically by name. For each bird species there are sections covering a variety of interesting topics including “Demography and Populations” and “Conservation and Management”.

12 Birds Back From the Brink by Nancy Furstinger highlights 12 different bird species that have made a comeback after being close to extinction. This book discusses both the reasons why species numbers declined to dangerous levels, and the actions that were taken to save them from extinction. It emphasizes the dramatic differences that human behavior can make in the survival or extinction of a species. Although intended for kids, the information in this book may be interesting to readers of all ages.

Here are some more kids’ books on endangered birds that both kids and adults may enjoy:

Endangered and Extinct Birds by Jennifer Boothroyd introduces both endangered and extinct birds. This book is easy to read and has lots of photographs.

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery tells the story of how scientists and volunteers are trying to save the unique and fascinating kakapo parrot of New Zealand. Like a number of other bird species in New Zealand, the kakapo parrot cannot fly.

Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf by Olivia Bouler features Olivia’s colorful illustrations of many types of birds. As an 11 year old, Olivia used her artistic talent to raise money for the vast numbers of birds devastated by the catastrophic 2010 Gulf oil spill. This book shows that even young people can make a difference by taking action!

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore has information on how scientists are trying to save Puerto Rican parrots from extinction. Puerto Rican parrots are the only parrots native to the United States. This book includes fantastic collage artwork and information on the history of Puerto Rico.

A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart has lots of colorful illustrations, facts about birds, and suggestions for how people can help birds to survive.

If you’d like to try drawing some birds, Draw 50 Birds by Lee J. Ames includes all types of birds: common, rare, recovering, and extinct. There are no written instructions in this book, just drawings.

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Accessible Voting Device Open House

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 10:20am


You will have two opportunities on Oct. 20 and 25 to try the County’s new accessible device that enables all voters, including those with disabilities, to mark ballots privately and independently. This accessible ballot-marking device includes an audio ballot reader and accommodates adaptive devices such as a sip-and-puff. Attendees will be able to mark and cast a demonstration ballot. County Clerk’s office staff will be present to answer questions. For more information contact Washtenaw County Clerk Elections Division: 734-222-6730,,

October 20, 12-00 to 4:00 pm
Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living
3941 Research Park Dr.

October 25, 5:00 to 7:00 pm
Washtenaw Learning Resources Center
4135 Washtenaw

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #654 “A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.” ~ Lorrie Moore

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 10:28pm

Librarian Extraordinaire and NPR books commentator Nancy Pearl's debut novel George & Lizzie *, is a loving tribute to Ann Arbor and her Alma mater (UM, AMLS, 1967).

In this "astute, nimble, funny, and affecting love story" (Booklist) a stoned Lizzie sabotaged George's near-perfect game and a dream date at the Bowlarama when they met. Weeks later, they shared a tuna fish sandwich at Drake's on their first date. Almost against all odds, they married despite radically different upbringing and understandings of what love and marriage should be.

George, a second-generation dentist grew up in a warm and loving family while Lizzie - angry, defiant, and self-involved, is the only child of a pair of research-driven psychologists who viewed her more as an in-house experiment than a child to love. Over the course of their marriage, George remains sunny and generous while Lizzie is plagued by depression, self-doubt, and traumatized by the secrets she keeps - a youthful indiscretion called the "Great Game" that involved 23 members of her high school football team; and her continued search for Jack McConaghey, the-one-who-got-away. And it would take a painful turn of events for Lizzie to reach a moment of clarity - that she has choices to make.

"Through knotty predicaments both sorrowful and hilarious, Pearl dramatizes a complicated and deeply illuminating union of opposites and conducts profound inquiries into the self, family, empathy, and love. The result is a charming, edgy, and many-faceted novel of penetrating humor and resonant insight." (Booklist)

Nancy Pearl will be at Nicola's Books for a reading/signing at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 4th.

In Standard Deviation *, Graham Cavanaugh, after 12 years of marriage to Audra is wondering if he had made the right choice now that he is on speaking terms with Elspeth, his first wife. Life with Audra, as irrepressible as she is spontaneous and fun, is also exhausting - constant chatter, gossips, and prickly house-guests, as well as the challenges of caring for their special-needs son Matthew. It is a stark contrast to the orderly existence with the emotionally cool Elspeth.

A firm believer that through the sheer force of her personality, she can overcome the most socially challenging interactions, Audra befriends Elspeth, sharing family dinners and holidays, oblivious to Graham's late night visits.

A follow-up to her well-received short-story collection Single, Carefree, Mellow (2015), Heiny gives us a hilarious and rueful debut novel of love, marriage, infidelity, and origami. "Contemporary fiction fans fond of urban settings and humor in the vein of Nora Ephron or Nick Hornby should appreciate this tale of city life and marriage while those searching for characters on the Asperger's spectrum could find young Matthew, portrayed as high functioning but challenging, authentic and recognizable as he navigates various connections with his parents and others." (Library Journal)

* = Starred review

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Restorative Justice & Returning Citizens

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:13am

Join us Monday, September 25, 2017: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the Malletts Creek Branch: Program Room

The American Friends Service Committee staff leads a panel discussion on restorative justice and mass incarceration which will include a videoed vignette of successful outcomes of advocacy & prison reform.

AFSC's Michigan Criminal Justice Program advocates for over 1,500 Michigan prisoners and their families each year, building an advocacy network throughout the state. The program encourages dialogue among prisoners and the general public, and works for humane reform of the criminal justice system, and for the rights of prisoners.

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Fantastic Fantasy Comic and Graphic Novel Series

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 11:47am

As the weather starts to cool down, I start looking for books to curl up with on cool evenings - Especially long-running series that will keep me engaged! Here's five of my favorite fantasy graphic novel series to start your fall with a touch of magic.

Sandman Chronicles by Neil Gaiman
10 books in the series, several stand-alone volumes
Start with: Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
Neil Gaiman has become almost a household name in the world of fantasy fiction for film adaptations of his works Stardust and American Gods. But before either of those books were published, Gaiman wrote the Sandman series. First published in 1989, it tells the story of the personification of dreams, named Morpheus, and of his adventures with humans, gods, spirits and denizens of worlds unknown. Gaiman weaves a rich tapestry of figures from every major mythology into an intensely exciting and thought-provoking reading experience. In this first adventure, Morpheus has been trapped by the magician Aleister Crowley for 60 years, but Crowley's waning power has made it possible for the Dream King to make his escape.
See Also: Death: The High Cost of Living, The Sandman: Dream Hunters, The Sandman: Endless Nights

Lucifer by Mike Carey
11 books in the series
Start with: Lucifer Vol. 1, Devil in the Gateway
We meet this series titular protagonist in Gaiman's Sandman chronicles – Lucifer Morningstar, fallen angel and lord of Hell. This serial begins with Lucifer holding court at his nightclub Lux, in Los Angeles. Why is Lucifer on Earth, and not ruling Hell? Well, he's quit. This act of rebellion has some serious consequences – and has left Hell prey to power struggles between heaven and the multiverses. But now that he's free, Lucifer has decided to enjoy life as much as he can, until Heaven comes to him with an offer he can't refuse. Thus begins an epic 11-volume adventure on par with Gaiman's Sandman.

The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen
5 books in the series
Start with: The Wicked + the Divine, Vol 1: The Faust Act
In Wicked+Divine, the gods our our mythology are reborn in the bodies of 13 teenagers every 90 years. They are loved by many, hated by some, but will be dead in two years. This short life-span, combined with the power of gods, makes these teenagers international superstars. They perform around the world for sold-out shows, sharing their powers with their adoring fans. But in the 21st century, being a teenager is hard enough – a teenage god is even worse. This story follows their mortal fan, Laura, as she tries to befriend the gods. But Laura is not what she appears...

Constantine: The Hellblazer by Ming Doyle
2 books in the current series, 39 total published
Start with: Vol 1: Going Down
John Constantine holds the record for longest graphic novel character in print - he's been featured since the 1980's. Whether you're a long-time fan of the Hellblazer, or the film version portrayed by Keanu Reeves, Doyle's retelling is a great introduction to this trenchcoated anti-hero. Constantine is a chain-smoking narcissist with more than one personality disorder, a sorcerer who is just as likely to get the people he's agreed to help killed as he is to save their lives. And when you're dealing with demons and ghosts, he'll probably get your soul damned in the process. He's a great guy - as long as you aren't his friend. But what makes Constantine such an enduring character is his deeply flawed nature and his true desire to do some good in the world – even if he really just ends up bungling it all up in the end.
See Also: Hellblazer: Original Sins, Hellblazer: India

Fables by Bill Willingham
22 books in the series, 3 tie-in series
Start with: Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile
A lot of fantasy is in supposition, and Fable is no exception. In Willingham's series, the characters from the fairy tales we grew up with are real people, alive and well, living in our world. Think about the TV show Once Upon a Time (which also has a graphic novel tie-in), but restricted to New York City. Our fairy tale characters are from "The Homelands" of Europe, but were forced to the new world by a mysterious Adversary. Their luxury high rise in New York City has become a peaceful and secret society, until proper politician Snow White's partygirl sister Rose Red is apparently murdered. Snow hires Bigby Wolf (formerly the Big Bad Wolf - reformed, pardoned and made sheriff) to find Rose. It's a "grim" whodunnit mystery; was it Blackbeard, Rose's notorious ex-lover, or Jack (of beanstalk fame) her current live-in boyfriend?

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #653

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 6:43pm

Goodbye, Vitamin *, former Lucky Peach Executive Editor Rachel Khong's debut has been called a "family dramedy...that ruminates on love, loss, and memory." (Kirkus Reviews)

30 year-old San Francisco ultrasound tech Ruth Young heads home to LA for the holidays with a broken heart. Fiancé Joel, a doc that she had dropped out of college to follow across the country(twice), broke up with her just as they were about to move to a bigger, nicer apartment.

The tension at home is palpable. Howard, her father, a prominent history professor is losing his memory (as well as his teaching position), and is only erratically lucid. Her mother, Annie is lucidly erratic, having given up cooking altogether since aluminum from cooking utensils could cause memory loss. The household subsists on carry-out pizza and a smorgasbord of vitamins. Ruth's brother Linus is conspicuously absent, unable to overlook their father's drunkenness and history of infidelity. So Ruth quits her job and moves home.

Written in chronological vignettes over the next year, we watch as Ruth navigates the role of daughter, sister, caregiver and cheerleader as Howard's condition worsen. "Ruth’s new preoccupation with memory, in its most concrete form, gives her a different glimpse of her father and family, while they all cope with what they know is a one-way-only illness. In her tender, well-paced debut novel, which spans Ruth’s year at home, Khong writes heartbreaking family drama with charm, perfect prose, and deadpan humor." (Booklist)

Readers might also enjoy You Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale, a collection of tales startlingly funny and original that make you reconsider the fragile compromises that underpin our daily lives; and Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian about a young woman's discovery of life’s continuously shifting, perplexing intimacies.

* = starred review

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We the Animals

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 8:27pm

We the Animals is the brilliant debut novel of Justin Torres, a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. The novel was the result of approximately six years of writing and editing for Torres. The author described his writing process in an interview with Electric Lit in 2011 as, "Word by word. Sentence by sentence...I revise, obsessively, as I'm moving forward." The result of Torres' painstaking writing process is a beautifully written and artfully structured piece of literature.

Torres' novel is split into nineteen stories that center around three brothers and their parents. The boys' parents work long hours and the children are often left to their own devices. We see the boys play, fight, and question. The brothers think about how they fit into the world. The father in the story, Paps, is Puerto Rican, and Ma, the mother, is white. Paps calls the boys, " ain't white and you ain't Puerto Rican."

The boys also question what it means to be a man. We the Animals is a coming of age story, and many of the vignettes discuss boyhood and masculinity. The stories are written using the plural pronoun "we," but the reader follows an unnamed protagonist. The main character intensely questions his masculinity in relation to his sexuality. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2011, Torres explained that he, "paid a lot of attention to voice and the collective identity of young childhood, the ‘we’ of it all. When you're still kind of forming your identity, it's very porous and it blends with that of the people around you."

We the Animals is one of my favorite contemporary novels. There is so much to unpack in this novel, from the format of the book to the concise, toned writing, to the subject matter. It's worth a read, and then maybe a second. Enjoy!

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Dawn Farm's Education Series Continues...

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 5:29pm

The public is invited to Dawn Farm’s free Educational Series. All programs are presented in the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Education Center auditorium, at 5305 Elliott Drive in Ypsilanti. You can also contact Dawn Farm at 734-485-8725 or All are welcome to attend! Registration is not required. All programs are from 7:30 -9:00 PM.

On September 19, the topic, Addiction & Families, will be presented by Lynn Kleiman Malinoff, Ed.D. Substance addiction affects the entire family. Learn how each family member is affected and ways family members can cope with addiction.

On September 26, James Balmer, President of Dawn Farm, will present "Addiction 101: A primer on the dynamics of alcohol and other drug use, addiction as a brain disease and the process of recovery".

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Yearning for the Yellow Cover...

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 1:05pm

And then, there was ANOTHER time at the library...there was that book you saw on a shelf, with a YELLOW cover, that caught your eye - but, for whatever reason, you had to pass it by. Now, if you should find yourself sour-faced like a lemon for that long lost spark of interest, I may have the book for you! I've recently created a list of books that have, or have had, yellow covers - whether or not their most recent editions have that bright lemon hue, they did at some point! Plus, this list is welcome to all kinds of yellow covered books...

Whether it be a musty yellow of the novel My Italian Bulldozer, a golden yellow like the published script of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, or perhaps the traffic-sign yellow of Chemistry, all yellow covers are welcome on this compilation list. But this list isn't just for the adults! There's also a wide age range available for the younger reader yelping for the yellow...

If it's from the Teen section like Kill All the Happies or maybe Fever Code from the Maze Runner series, this list has many canary-yellow covered pages that you might have left on the shelf for a later date. Even the youth may have left a book resting on it's display, such as Sam and Eva or Daddy Long Legs. This list also provides you with options from every genre in the library...

Maybe you were browsing through historical fiction and found Homegoing or The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks? Could you have been possibly perusing the Express Shelf and seen We Are Never Meeting in Real Life or found How to Raise an Adult on the parent shelf? What about the non-fiction readers, who may have browsed through the stacks seeing covers that advertised oversized animals or a search for peace of mind?

This list has ALL THE THINGS (or would like to have) and is growing each day! Please feel free to take a look, and make comments of other yellow-covered books you think others may be searching for, so the list can continue to grow. Just think: someone out there could be looking for a yellow book jacket that you've read before - maybe you have the answer they've been looking for as they search the numerous volumes we have here at AADL. Or perhaps you yourself have been searching, and the book is in this list already!!! Only one way to find out...