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Celebrating the Life of Poet, Seamus Heaney

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 8:24pm

In the month of August I am always reminded of the poet, Seamus Heaney, who died fours years ago on August 30th. He was a prolific writer; he left behind many poems and a translation of the epic tale, Beowulf.

Every August, I celebrate his life by rereading my favorite book of poems, North. Heaney grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland. His book of poems, North, begins with two poems about the farm he grew up on called Mossbawn. The first few lines of the poem are: "There was a sunlit absence./ The helmeted pump in the yard/ heated its iron,/ water honeyed..."

North has two parts. The first half of the poems deal with Greek mythology and Heaney's "Bog people." The second section of the collection speaks of the political climate and the conflicts in Northern Ireland during the 1970's and before.

If you are looking to delve deeper into Heaney's work, please do! AADL has volumes of Heaney's poetry calling your name...

Selected Poems, 1966-1987

Human Chain

The Burial at Thebes

The Spirit Level

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #648

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:05pm


Named one of the [|Sydney Morning Herald] Best Young Australian Novelists, [a:Jaswal, Balli Kaur.|Balli Kaur Jaswal's] North American hardcover debut - [b:1509928|Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows], is set in the [|Sikh] community of Greater London.

A great disappointment to her Punjabi immigrant family, a "westernized" Nikki Grewa tends bar at the local pub after dropping out of law school. She is bewildered that her sister Mindi, a nurse, is willing to try arranged marriage. While at the community center to post Mindi's dating profile, she impulsively answers an ad for a creative writing teacher.

Unable to engage her students - proper Sikh widows who show up expecting to learn English and not short-story writing, until one of them finds among Nikki's teaching materials an erotica (Nikki's genre of choice) in English, and hijacks her lesson plans, unleashing a wealth of fantasies and creativity.

As more women are drawn to the class all across London, they draw the attention of the Brotherhood, the self-appointed morality police. But it is Nikki's curiosity about the strange death of a young woman named Maya that would land her in grave danger.

"With a keen ear for dialogue and humor, Jaswal deftly entwines these women’s lives, creating a world in which women of multiple generations find common ground in the erotic fantasies that reveal both lived experiences and wistful dreams. By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this tale of women defying patriarchal strictures enchants." (Kirkus Reviews) Film rights optioned by [|Scott Free Films].

Suggested read-alikes: [b:1440711|Together Tea] by [a:Kamali, Marjan|Marjan Kamali]; [b:1374364|A Cup of Friendship] by [a:Rodriguez, Deborah|Deborah Rodriguez]; and [b:1170344|Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee] by [a:Syal, Meera|Meera Syal]. For anyone who doubts that there is life after 50, check out [b:1223377|Calendar Girls].

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50th Anniversary of The Outsiders

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 4:28pm

[img_assist|nid=364229|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=159]This year marks the 50th anniversary of the novel [|The Outsiders], by [|S.E. Hinton], which she started to write at the age of 15. Fifty years, and never out of print, the book is still relevant and read today, touching many generations.

It’s a coming of age tale narrated by Ponyboy, a teen living in small town Oklahoma with his two brothers. Living on the poor side of town and known as Greasers, they and their friends face daily run-ins with the kids from the other side of town – the Socs.

In 1983 a film version of [|The Outsiders] directed by Francis Ford Coppola was released, starring many up and coming young actors who got their break in the film. In 2005 a new version of the film was released, which includes additional scenes that add to the story. The intense behind-the-scenes casting process also included is priceless.

Reading and watching as a kid in the 80s, it was one of the first films and books that had a profound effect on me.

Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #647

Sun, 07/23/2017 - 9:57pm


Denver's [|Tattered Cover Bookstore] alum and winner of the [|Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize], [a:Sullivan, Matthew, 1970-|Matthew Sullivan] has been named [|Goodreads Debut Author of the Month], and [b:1509940|Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore], an [|Indie Next Pick]. What's not to love - a suicide in a bookstore, a 20 year-old triple-murder cold case, and a survivor who turns to clues hidden in books to solve the mystery.

A favorite among the BookFrogs, the lost and lonely regulars who spend their days (and evenings) among the shelves, Lydia Smith was devastate when she discovered young Joey Molina had hanged himself in the Bright Ideas Bookstore’s upper room. Bewildered, she found a photo of herself at her 10th birthday party in his pocket, and he had left her his meager worldly possessions. Among the detritus of a solitary life lived on the fringe, Lydia found an odd collection of books inexplicably defaced, hinting at messages for her to decipher.

As Lydia tracks down the clues Joey left for her in his books, she discovers his connection to her estranged father; to the nightmarish crime that left her traumatized. With the murderer whom the press called "The Hammerman" still at large, she must face the secrets she has long buried, and with the help of Raj Patel, a childhood friend, untangle the mystery that unwittingly, connects them all.

"Quirky characters and a keen sense of place distinguish this multigenerational tale of abandonment, desperation, and betrayal." (Publishers Weekly)

For fans of library/bookstore settings and puzzle mysteries, try also [b:1416355|Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore] by [a:Sloan, Robin, 1979-|Robin Sloan]; [b:1448808|The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry] by [a:Zevin, Gabrielle|Gabrielle Zevin]; and [b:1469854|The Book of Speculation] by [a:Swyler, Erika|Erika Swyler].

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Margaret Atwood's Prize Winner

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 3:48pm


“Then I’ll tell you a story. I’ll tell you this story; the story of how you came to be here, sitting in my kitchen, listening to the story I’ve been telling you...What is it I want from you? Not love: that would be too much to ask. Not forgiveness, which isn’t yours to bestow. Only a listener, perhaps; only someone who will see me.”

[a:Atwood, Margaret|Margaret Atwood] is a remarkably prolific author whose works include 16 novels, 8 collections of short fiction, children’s books, collections of poetry, non-fiction works, television scripts, a graphic novel and a play. In 2000 she won [|The Man Booker Prize] for [b:1169226|The Blind Assassin]. This multi-layered novel contain books within books, plots stacking up and overlapping. [a:Atwood, Margaret|Atwood] masterfully uses her characters as storytellers to create an expansive and complex narrative.

[b:1169226|The Blind Assassin] defies an orderly summary. Using multiple literary devices, [a:Atwood, Margaret|Atwood] deftly braids together three main threads to create this textured tale. Though the plot is complicated, at times confounding, it is also highly compelling. Iris Chase Griffen is at the end of her life as she chronicles, in writing, how she fills her days. While she is detailing this, she is also writing about her childhood spent with her sister, Laura. The third main thread of the story is “The Blind Assassin,” a novel published posthumously by Laura. These independent episodes create a whole which reads like a gothic mystery blended with speculative fiction. We learn of Laura Chase’s death in the opening line of the novel, and we know how she died, but [a:Atwood, Margaret|Atwood] leads us on a long, twisted path to deliver the why. “From here on in, things take a darker turn. But then, you knew they would. You knew it, because you already know what happened to Laura.”

For those of you on the long hold list for her extremely popular, and timely [b:1007355|The Handmaid’s Tale], or those looking for more [a:Atwood, Margaret|Atwood, Margaret] post-[b:1007355|The Handmaid’s Tale], [b:1169226|The Blind Assassin] is definitely worth delving into.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #646 “Horror was rooted in sympathy . . . in understanding what it would be like to suffer the worst.” ~ Joe Hill

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 8:16am


[|World Fantasy Award–winner] [a:Goss, Theodora|Theodora Goss's] debut [b:1509874|The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter *] is reworked from an earlier short story, bringing her "Gothic-inflected fantasies roaring into the steampunk era." (Publishers Weekly)

Mary [|Jekyll], alone and penniless after her mother's death, found among her mother's ledger monthly payment to the Magdalen Society for the upkeep of "Hyde". Curious and eager to claim the reward for the capture of Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, Mary enlisted the help of [|Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson], who were somewhat distracted in consulting for [|Inspector Lestrade] in a series of gruesome murders of [|Whitechapel prostitutes].

Their hunt led them to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, and soon to Beatrice [|Rappaccini], Catherine [|Moreau], and Justine [|Frankenstein] - other “monstrous” daughters of infamous scientists. This quintet of remarkable women took us on "a delightful romp through Victorian gothic literature, with a decidedly feminist slant", (Library Journal) and eventually to the Société des Alchimistes, a secret society of power-crazed scientists.

Winner of [|Best Horror Novel] at the British Fantasy Awards 2016 [b:1506426|The Girl from Rawblood *] by [a:Ward, Catriona|Catriona Ward] is set in an isolated mansion on [|Dartmoor] called Rawblood (raw from sraw means the 'flowing' Dart River, blood from bont, a bridge), home to the only surviving members of the Villarca family - Iris and her father, Alonso.

For generations, the Villarcas have been haunted. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child, death follows. Thus Alonso made Iris promise to remain alone all her life. But at 15, Iris breaks that promise by falling in love, and the consequences of her choice are immediate and devastating. The narrative opens in 1910 with young Iris Villarca recounting "This is how I come to kill my father."

"Ward's layered and skillfully crafted novel weaves elements of classic gothic and horror into a remarkable story populated by unforgettable characters, palpable atmosphere, and rich lyricism. Imagine the darkest and goriest undertones of [a:Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849.|Edgar Allan Poe], the [a:Brontë, Charlotte, 1816-1855.|Brontës], [a: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870.|Charles Dickens], and [a:Jackson, Shirley, 1916-1965.|Shirley Jackson], and you'll have an idea of what Ward offers here." (Library Journal)

* = Starred review

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Happy Birthday Gustav Klimt!

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 12:50am


Today is artist [|Gustav Klimt’s] 155th birthday! What better way to celebrate, than to appreciate some of his incredible work. We have a selection of his paintings in our art print collection available to check out, including my favorite, and one of his most popular pieces, [|The Kiss]. The Kiss is a glowing portrait of two lovers in a tight embrace, painted using oil paints and layers of gold leaf - actual gold that has been hammered down into thin, delicate sheets used for gilding.

Also available for check out is [|The Woman in Gold], a 2014 film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, that tells the story of Klimt’s famous Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was stolen by Nazi’s during the second World War, and Adele's niece, Maria Altmann's decade long fight to reclaim the precious artwork. To read more about the true story, you can check out [|The Lady in Gold], or for a fictionalized version, be sure to read the novel [|Stolen Beauty].

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #645 “...we are all sorry when loss comes for us. The test of our character comes not in how many tears we shed but in how we act after those tears have dried.” ~ Michelle Moran

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 8:19pm


[b:1508244|The Reminders *], a debut novel by writer, singer-songwriter, and actor [a:Emmich, Val|Val Emmich] ([b:1495682|Vinyl] and [|Ugly Betty]) is the unlikely friendship between a gifted child who remembers everything and a grieving man who is trying to forget.

10 year-old Joan Lennon (her father's favorite songwriter) Scully has HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory). While she can recall every minute detail of her life, she is frustrated that everyone else forgets, even the most important things and people in their lives. She thinks winning a local songwriting contest might make her unforgettable.

Their house guest Gavin Winters is a grief-stricken TV actor who recently lost his partner Sydney. Caught on a neighbor's camera (the video went viral) setting fire to everything the couple own, Gavin, embarrassed and humiliated, accepts Paige and Ollie's invitation to visit New Jersey. Gavin and Ollie were college band-mates while Paige grew up with Sydney, and introduced the two. Gradually, Gavin is comforted by Joan's many cinematic and precise memories of Uncle Sydney through the years. As a trade-off, Gavin agrees to help Joan write the "perfect song" for the contest.

Told in the alternating voices of Joan and Gavin, we witness how this quirky friendship takes them on a few wild adventures, and eventually heals them both in heartfelt and unusual ways. "(A)chingly sweet, and unexpectedly nuanced. " (Kirkus Reviews)

In [b:1506445|Rabbit Cake * *] by [a:Hartnett, Annie|Annie Hartnett], Elvis (she shares the king's birthday) Babbitt's Mom marked every milestone and holiday by baking a rabbit-shaped cake. According to the Chinese zodiac, rabbit represents longevity and good luck. Thinking back, Elvis thought the first sign of danger was when her mother burned the ears of the rabbit cake for Elvis's 10th birthday. Six months later, her Mom, an accomplished swimmer, sleepwalked into a river and drowned.

Before she could get on with grieving her mother (she was told it would take 18 months), Elvis seemed to be the only one in the family concerned with 15 year-old Lizzie's increasingly bizarre and dangerous sleep-eating behavior. Her father was no help - taking to walking around the house in her mother's silk kimono, wearing lipstick, and adopting a pet parrot that talks like her mother.

Like her mother, a biologist, Elvis finds comfort in facts and figures. She continues to investigate the strange circumstances of her mother's death, and tries to complete the research for the book her mother was writing on the sleep habits of animals, while coming to terms with her fractured family.

"This is the moving and often funny story of a family trying to figure out what to do next now that their touchstone is gone. The narrator’s voice is a stunning combination of youthful and astute....How a whip-smart young girl handles the loss of her mother and the reorientation of her family; charming and beautifully written." (Kirkus Reviews)

Suggested read-alikes: [a:Brunt, Carol Rifka|Carol Rifka Brunt's] debut [b:1411076|Tell the Wolves I'm Home]; [b:1363074|The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake] by [a:Bender, Aimee|Aimee Bender]; and [b:1511200|Invincible Summers], Ann Arbor area author [a:Gaines, Robin|Robin Gaines'] debut.

A friend also suggests [b:1508620|Option B: facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy *] by [a:Sandberg, Sheryl|Sheryl Sandberg] that "explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships... Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere and to rediscover joy."

* = Starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

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A Portrait of Bowie

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 1:36pm


It’s mid-2017 and I still find myself missing David Bowie. After his death in January of last year, we read a lot about him in my household—a lot. Several books on Bowie were published in 2016 alone, in addition to lengthy tributes in magazines and online. One book escaped my notice until recently—A Portrait of Bowie: A Tribute to Bowie by his Artistic Collaborators & Contemporaries. This collection of interviews, art, and photographs was edited by Brian Hiatt, a senior writer for Rolling Stone. Honestly, my hopes for this book weren’t too high. I figured it would contain some slap-dash Bowie-themed art and a bunch of sentimental sound bites from famous people. But I put myself on the hold list for it anyway.

A Portrait actually surprised me by how good it is. The unexpected strength of the book is that Hiatt shifts the focus away from Bowie’s more famous collaborators like Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, and Tony Visconti—who have already said a lot about working with Bowie. Instead, he interviews people you may not have heard of, but who have been key to Bowie’s sound and success in the studio and on tour: Mike Garson, Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick, and Gail Ann Dorsey, for instance. Hiatt also interviews photographers other artists who have worked with Bowie over the years. There are a few appearances by artists who never worked with Bowie but were influenced by him, and these are fun to read but didn't add much to my knowledge about Bowie.

And, as promised, A Portrait contains a lot of visual art too, most of which was done in collaboration with Bowie himself. For me, most of the art is hit or miss. But I especially enjoyed Hiatt’s choice of photographs, which cover Bowie’s career from the mid-1960s to the 2000s, many of which I had never seen before.

The truism about Bowie is that he was a shape-shifter, that he was constantly re-inventing himself as an artist. But these interviews give us insight into why and how Bowie performed his transformations. A Portrait of Bowie shows us David Bowie as a person, but goes further in revealing his creative process and how he managed his public image.

If you’re a Bowie fan, don’t pass this one up. The artist Derek Boshier, who painted Bowie and worked on his album covers, says, "I always tell people that we think we know what we look like, and we know each other by looking in the mirror and photographs and films, but David knew what he looked like from every angle, from the back of his head even. He knew every part."

A Portrait helps us know Bowie in that way, too.

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Fri, 07/07/2017 - 2:58pm

Spring Awakening today is, for some, what Rent was in the ‘90s. Originally written as a German play by Frank Wedekind in the 19th century (and promptly banned), it resurfaced as a rock musical by Duncan Sheik in 2006. Starring Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff of future [|Glee] fame, the show took home eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. It was recently revived on Broadway by Deaf West Theater in 2015, receiving an additional three Tony nominations.

The story follows teens under oppressive boarding school and home regimes as they navigate a multitude of difficult topics including sexuality, pregnancy, abortion, suicide, neglect, and abuse – serious stuff! That’s why [|Ann Arbor in Concert] – which is producing the show for one night only on Saturday, July 15th – is working to ensure that prospective patrons learn as much about the musical’s content and topics as they can before deciding if the show is right for them. The Ann Arbor District Library is presenting, [|“Spring Awakening: How a 19th-Century German Play Rocks with Relevance Today,”] a talk and discussion led by Corner Health Center Health Educator, Social Worker, and Teen Peer Education Theatre Troupe Leader, Craig VanKempen, MSW, MPH. This event will take place on Monday, July 10, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Library’s Downtown Branch.

The Library offers a plethora of additional resources for community members to educate themselves about Spring Awakening and its topics. Patrons can check out the [|musical score] or [|soundtrack] to hear the incredibly powerful music and decide if the more explicit lyrics are their cup of tea. Frank Wedekind’s [|Four Major Plays] is also available for those interested in reading a translation of the original story.

One of the primary conflicts of the musical is that the adults prioritize avoiding their own discomfort over their children and students’ safety. Today we know that, although uncomfortable at times, understanding and talking about sex, consent, suicide, and bullying reduces shame, promotes accurate information, and enables people to access resources when they need help. How different would the story of Spring Awakening be if Wendla’s mother had talked to her the way that Grandma talks to her grandchild in [|Anastasia Higginbotham’s book], or if members of the entire community had been about to check out resources like [|Kate Bornstein’s book] from their local library. Today we also have many excellent organizations in our community including [|Ele’s Place], [|Ozone House], [|SafeHouse Center], and [|Corner Health Center] to provide additional support and resources to those who need them.

Spring Awakening is not a show for everyone, and Ann Arbor in Concert has posted a parental advisory to encourage prospective patrons, particularly those with younger family members, to learn more about the show before purchasing tickets.

AADL's [|Pulp] has published a [|preview] about the show.

Ann Arbor in Concert’s one-night-only performance of Spring Awakening will be on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 8 p.m. at the Power Center. Tickets are on sale at [|] or at the [|Michigan Union Ticket Office].