Unique New Adult Historical Fiction: The Miniaturist

Jessie Burton’s brand new The Miniaturist is a fascinating and unusual tale set in Amsterdam in the late 17th century. The story opens with the arrival in the city of Nella Oortman , who is prepared to begin her new life as the wife of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. She feels unwelcome in her new home; despite its beauty, Johannes is distant and she knows no one else in the city. Nella is fascinated, however, by the wedding gift that Johannes gives her: a miniature replica of their home that Nella may furnish as she chooses. When Nella hires a renowned miniaturist to construct and paint the furnishings of her tiny house, the small creations shockingly begin to mimic the pieces that they are based on in real life in amazing and unsettling ways.

As the miniaturist works to complete the replica of the Brandts’ home, Nella learns more and more about her husband and about the secretive world of their household. It seems as though the miniaturist can foresee the future, but as the book progresses, Nella begins to wonder if the unusual man is really there to help or… or to ruin her.

“Enchanting, beautifully written, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth,” reads the book jacket. The dramatic backdrop of pious 1680s Denmark only adds to the mystery and intrigue that Burton has created for readers in this book. The UK Observer calls The Miniaturist a “fabulously gripping read” and accurately recommends it to fans of Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch. This fast-paced read is perfect to put as number one on your autumn reading list.

Badge Drop #11: Drop the Beat


Okay Summer Gamers, it's Friday, and Friday means BADGE DROP! And this week we have a very special musical episode of Summer Game Badge Drop. We've got a few new Pop Music badges for you and some musical installments of Lydia and Constellations. I guess that's it for the musical theme really, but what can you expect? Isn't part of what you love about the Summer Game how CRAZY RANDOM it is? We've got plenty for you non-music lovers, too, including a new Explorer (this time you are headed to the UM Museum of Natural History!) and TWO Player Picks from fabulous players KathyD and Zigzagog!

Let's go to the badgelist:

2014 Badge Drop #11



Now that your brains are all salivating over delicious new badges, there's something we should discuss. It's August 22, which means fall is on its way soon. And if there's one thing we leave behind in the fall (get it, leave, like the leaves fall, nevermind), its the Summer Game! That's right, there are only 10 DAYS LEFT before the Summer Game closes its doors for another season. So what does that mean for you, dear player? It means you've got until midnight on Sunday, August 31 to earn all of those badges you've been putting off, tag, rate, and review all of those items in the catalog, and get to all of those library branches, local businesses, and terrarium locales to complete your code collections! That's 10 DAYS AND COUNTING!

And, as always--say it along with me--THANKS FOR PLAYING!

Sizzling Summer Reads #4 (& Fabulous Fiction Firsts #478 ) "Summer's lease hath all too short a date.” ~ William Shakespeare

The Last Kings of Sark * by Rosa Rankin-Gee (named one of Esquire magazine's 75 Brilliant Young Brits', and winner of the Shakespeare & Company's international Paris Literary Prize in 2011).

Sark, pop.400, a remote car-less Channel Island, reached only by an all-day ferry ride (or private plane) from Guernsey. Jude, a recent grad (St. Andrews and wrongly assumed to be a guy, as in Law, Hey, and the Obscure), is hired by Eddy, the patriarch of the Defoe family to tutor 16 year-old Pip for the summer before university. Thrown together by necessity, Jude and Sofi, the magnetic, mercurial family cook, quickly bond as roommates and coconspirators. Left on their own away from adult eyes, the three embark on a magical summer of exploring. Years later, as their lives take them to Paris, Normandy and London, memories of the summer they shared on Sark remain.

Debut novelist "Rankin-Gee's tactile, mellifluous prose is on full display here, as the tiniest details help fully immerse readers in the otherworldly island setting." "The fluid sexuality will be a welcome offering for readers of LGBT fiction. "

"Compelling, sensual, and lyrical..., a tale of complicated love, only children and missed opportunities."

Anne Rivers Siddons offers her fans another emotionally gripping, beach-themed read with The Girls of August.

Every August, four women gather for a week of relaxation at a beach house. This started when their husbands met at med school, and the rich Cornelia, married to the party-animal Teddy, invited them to her beach house. Cornelia didn't last, and the annual trip was suspended when Melinda (Mrs. Teddy #2) dies in a tragic accident, and the Girls of August slowly drift apart.

When "Baby," who is half the age of the other ladies becomes Mrs. Teddy #3, she attempts to reestablish the August ritual. As Rachel, Barbara and narrator Maddy gather at a remote beach house on a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, the women must come to terms with their differences and find a sense of unity in the midst of health issues, marital conflict, and infertility as they ride out a violent storm.

Not ready to bide the bare-foot season farewell? Try Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky; All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue; The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank; The Island by Elin Hilderbrand; and A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. Enjoy these precious last days of summer.

* = starred review

Bat Festival: Stellaluna author is coming!

Mark your calendars for Sept. 27, when the 13th annual Great Lakes Bat Festival will happen 10 am - 5 pm at Washtenaw Community College. This festival is presented by the Organization for Bat Conservation and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Among authors and speakers will be Janell Cannon, who wrote and illustrated the classic picture book Stellaluna. The festival offers families a chance to learn about the fascinating world of bats. Check it out!

Nicola's Books: Meet Julie Lawson Timmer

If you're wanting to meet Ann Arbor-based author Julie Lawson Timmer, she'll be signing books at Nicolas Books in Westgate Shopping Center on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. Her debut novel is Five Days Left. From the publisher's description: "Mara is a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and mother. Struggling with a devastating illness, she has set herself five days to make the ultimate decision for her family. Scott lives a thousand miles away, and is a foster parent to a troubled eight-year-old. Scott is facing his own five day countdown until his beloved foster son is returned to his biological mother. The two connect through an online forum, and find a friendship to help guide them through the most difficult, and momentous, week of their lives. . . "

Alternative Fairy Tales

One reason why I love fairy tales so much is because I love the alternative ways that different authors choose to tell the familiar stories. Putting twists on famous fairy tales opens up whole new interpretations for readers and viewers, and can really change the way certain characters are portrayed. The AADL has a whole host of alternative fairy tale stories of all types. One of my favorite collections is a teen series, contributed to by various authors, that “retells” many different fairy tales. There are 15 total retellings in the series, including Midnight Pearls: A Retelling of The Little Mermaid, Before Midnight: A Retelling of Cinderella, The Crimson Thread: A Retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty Sleep: A Retelling of Sleeping Beauty along with retellings of Jack and the Beanstalk, The Magic Flute, and others.

In the adult book Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi has reimagined the story of Snow White and the Deven Dwarfs as set in the United States in the 1950s and 60s. Maintaining the focus of the original fairy tale’s obsession with beauty, Oyeyemi turns her retelling into a story of race, vanity, and family, while also painting an enchanting picture of life in Massachusetts during the mid-twentieth century. Readers will find that Boy, Snow, Bird is a thought-provoking novel, described as “gloriously unsettling” by the New York Times Book Review.

For those who are eager to read a number of alternative fairy tales, we even have some collections of retold favorites. Try Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold, or The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold, both compilations of alternative fairy tales from many cultures written by famous authors.

Also in our collection are The Stepsister’s Tale, Snow White and Rose Red, and the movie Ever After: A Cinderella Story.

Saved By The Bell Turns 25

25 years ago today Saved By The Bell debuted on NBC and teenage television was changed with the introduction of heartthrob Zack Morris and the rest of cast of the show. The sitcom ran from 1989-1993. Can you believe it’s been 25 years since we first met Screech and the gang? And why does Mario Lopez (Slater) still look the same? Other things to ponder: The College Years, the summer beach episodes, the Hawaii episodes, The Max, Mr. Belding, the pleated pants and bright colors.

If you need to scratch that itch, check out seasons 1-4 on DVD. Or for more TV shows set in high school, explore the titles on this list.

Celebrating Batman’s 75th Birthday

It may be hard to believe that Bruce Wayne began his crusade against crime 75 years ago (he looks so young!), but this year marks just that occasion. To commemorate this milestone DC Comics has released a volume consisting of some of the greatest bat-stories ever told. Batman: a celebration of 75 years is sure to engage and entertain both new and experienced Bat-readers. While you’re waiting for your hold to come in, or if you’d like to brush up on what Batman’s been up to for the last few decades, be sure to check out some of these Bat-classics from our catalog!

The Long Halloween - Batman is on the hunt for a serial killer whose devious crimes coincide with major holidays. Noirish and complex, perhaps the greatest Batman story ever told.

Batman: Year One - Writer Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) offers his take on the successes and failures of Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon during Batman’s first year in Gotham. Year One is counted as one of the inspirations for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

The Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller adds to the Batman canon by bringing an aged Bruce Wayne out of retirement to battle the powerful Mutant Gang and -- gasp! -- Superman. This Miller classic was drawn upon as source material for 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat - Creative team Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench introduce Batman to one of his strongest and most intelligent foes: Bane! Tune in to find out just how far the Batman can bend before he breaks.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #477 - Spotlight on Family Sagas

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing * by Mira Jacob opens with celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen sitting on his porch at his home in New Mexico talking to dead relatives. At least that is the story his wife, Kamala, prone to exaggeration, tells their daughter, Amina, a Seattle area wedding photographer. Knowing that she has been manipulated, Amina nevertheless, arranges for a visit home where she soon realizes that something may actually be wrong with her father. The trouble might be rooted in the family's visit to India some twenty years ago; the tension between her father and Ammachy, her grandmother and family matriarch; and the mystery behind the death of her older brother, the rebellious and brilliant Akhil.

"(L)ight and optimistic, unpretentious and refreshingly witty... Jacob has created characters with evident care and treats them with gentleness even as they fight viciously with each other. Her prose is sharp and true and deeply funny." "(A) winning, irreverent debut novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past."

Matthew Thomas's debut - We Are Not Ourselves * * is "a very moving book about the dangers of always wanting more."

Smart and ambitious Eileen Tumulty, dutiful daughter born to hard-drinking Irish working-class parents, looks for a better life for herself by training as a nurse. When she marries Ed Leary, a quiet neuroscientist, she is disappointed with his choice teaching at a community college despite more lucrative and prestigious offers. With their Jackson Heights (Queens) neighborhood in decline, Eileen is desperate to move out of the city (and up the social ladder), into a fixer-upper that they could ill afford. Then Ed is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.

"Thomas works on a large canvas to create a memorable depiction of Eileen's vibrant spirit, the intimacy of her love for Ed, and the desperate stoicism she exhibits as reality narrows her dreams. Her life, observed over a span of six decades, comes close to a definitive portrait of American social dynamics in the 20th century. Thomas's emotional truthfulness combines with the novel's texture and scope to create an unforgettable narrative."

Thirty-five years (and 20-some titles) after her wildly successful generational saga set in Australia - The Thorn Birds (based on her family's history), Colleen McCullough returns to the genre with Bittersweet, an epic romance set in the decades after WWI, about two sets of Latimer twins, all trained as nurses but each with her own ambitions.

"McCullough's background in medicine is apparent as she seamlessly weaves in information about the history of nurse's training in Australia and the development of modern pathology. Bittersweet is both a fascinating exploration of the bonds between sisters and a fine historical novel."

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Great Book for Teens: Since You’ve Been Gone

I’ve been a fan of Morgan Matson ever since reading her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, but this summer, I completely fell in love with her latest book, Since You’ve Been Gone.

Shy Emily knows her sociable best friend Sloane will always be there to take charge in new situations, but when Emily returns home from a family trip, she discovers her best friend is gone. Sloane is not at home and won’t answer her calls or texts. Then Emily receives a mysterious letter from Sloane, a list of fifteen random things to do – like kiss a stranger and ride a horse – and hopes that completing this list will somehow reveal what happened to Sloane. More coming-of-age story than mystery, this book will resonate with any shy teen who has had to grow more outgoing after a big life change. It's a great read for anyone who enjoys smart realistic teen fiction with a touch of romance and is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Stephanie Perkins.

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