Fabulous Fiction Firsts #471 - "Knowledge is gained through wisdom, my friend. Use the sword wisely.” ~ Brian Jacques

With swashbuckling action that brings to mind Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers, Sebastien De Castell launches a dynamic new fantasy series with Traitor's Blade *, where a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The Greatcoats were once the king's elite magistrates, 144 men and women whose mission was to travel the land the uphold the King's Law. But the powerful Dukes overthrew the king and the Greatcoats were scattered and disgraced. Now Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti are reduced to working as bodyguards and mercenaries, jeered by the citizenry as "trattari" - tatter-cloaks, and branded as traitors. Implicated in a carefully orchestrated series of murders (including that of their employer); and the life of a young orphaned girl is at stake, they must search for a way to reunite the Greatcoats, and to restore order to Tristia, with nothing more than the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands.

"This debut is a triumph of character, with every protagonist a fascination, especially Falcio, a tormented and ridiculously honorable man. Humor abounds, mostly in the sparkling dialog among our Three Musketeers-esque band of brothers..." Look for Greatcoat's Lament and Tyrant's Throne, Book 2 and 3 of The Greatcoats series already in the works.

In the meantime, you might enjoy these readalikes:

Gentlemen of the Road * * * (a personal favorite) by Micheal Chabon. In the Caucasus Mountains in 950 A.D., two adventurers wander the region, plying their trade as swords for hire, until they become involved in a bloody coup in the medieval Jewish empire of the Khazars as bodyguards for a fugitive prince. A swashbuckling adventure yarn, along the lines of The Arabian Nights.

Captain Alatriste * by Arturo Perez-Reverte, the first installment of a historical series where wounded 17th c. Spanish soldier Alatriste works as a swordsman-for-hire in Madrid.

* = starred review
* * * = 3 starred reviews

Permaculture: Practical solutions for self-reliance

One of our newer magazine subscriptions at the library is to Permaculture: Practical solutions for self-reliance. This magazine is a "bestselling international green-environmental magazine (with) inspiring articles written by leading experts alongside the readers' own tips and solutions," their website states. More from the website: "Published quarterly, this pioneering magazine is full of money-saving ideas for your home, garden and community. It features thought provoking articles on organic gardening; food and drink; renewable technology and green building; education, health and economics; transition towns and ecovillages; personal and community development; and sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry." Permaculture magazine also runs reviews of new books, DVDs, tools, courses, and access to contacts. Sounds like a good one!

Happy 313rd Birthday, Detroit!

Another year, another birthday for the D. But this year’s celebration stands out because it’s the 313rd birthday for a city with area code 313! That number rings loud and clear in Detroit and surrounding cities. 313 is worn with pride on shirts and tattoos across town.

To get more of your fill of this dynamic, struggling and recovering city, check out some of the newer books in our collection regarding Detroit food, travel, art, recreation, and more:

Detroit food: coney dogs to farmers markets

Lost Detroit: stories behind the Motor City's majestic ruins

Belle Isle to 8 Mile : an insider's guide to Detroit

Detroit country music: mountaineers, cowboys, and rockabillies

Built in Detroit: a story of the UAW, a company, and a gangster

Detroit an American autopsy

Detroit City is the place to be: the afterlife of an American metropolis

Best bike rides Detroit and Ann Arbor: great recreational rides in Southeast Michigan

For more titles, be sure to check out the rest of the book titles in our collection. There are so many good ones!

Cozy Classics

If you ever get tired of checking out the same board books about shapes and colors, you can round out your board book reading with Cozy Classics. Each of these adorable little books feature classic stories such as Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Each classic tale is condensed into 12 words that relate to a child’s world such as “friend,” “mean,” or “chase.” On the page opposite each word appears a needle-felted illustration that provides a visual for the plot. These illustrations are gorgeous in their detail and their beauty alone is a good reason to check out these books.

Parents who know the original stories will enjoy these books and may also appreciate the opportunity to introduce their little ones to such great works of literature so early.

“Enchanting… a service to literate families everywhere” ~ The Wall Street Journal
“Capture[s] the imagination of young readers” ~ Reading Rainbow

If you like the concept of introducing your young children to classic literature but the Cozy Classics aren't appealing to you, try a BabyLit book. These books teach concepts such as opposites and the weather with the backdrop of stories such as Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights.

"Oldies but Goodies!"

There are so many fun kids’ books out there from recent years that sometimes we forget about the great older books that are still fantastic reads today! If you or your children are looking for something new to read, why not try something “old?”

Newbery Medal winner The Westing Game, first published in 1978, is a wonderfully mind-twisting tale of a group of people—all potential heirs to the inheritance of an eccentric millionaire—who must race one another to solve the mystery of his death before one of them can claim the money. The fun quirks of the different characters keep the book interesting and funny, and make this a great story for older elementary readers.

A Long Way From Chicago, published in 1998, and its companion, A Year Down Yonder (2000), both by Richard Peck, are fantastic read-aloud stories and audio books. The Newbery Medal-winning A Long Way From Chicago is really a series of short stories, told from the perspective of a young boy who visits his wild grandmother with his sister during the Great Depression. Their visits produce all sorts of experiences and memories and make for a wonderful, heart-warming story that has stuck with me since I first had the book read to me in, well, 1998.

The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) opens with a terribly bored boy who can never find anything to do that amuses him. Arriving home from school one day to find a mysterious gift in his bedroom, he is ultimately transported to a magical land where he has grand adventures and even goes on a quest to save two princesses trapped in a castle in the air! Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, this is an endlessly entertaining story with lots of great puns and wordplay.

Other lovely “older” reads are: All-of-a-Kind Family (1951), From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967), Our Only May Amelia (1999), Harriet the Spy (1964), The Borrowers (1953), and Bud Not Buddy (1999).

Kid Bits - I CAN PLAY IT SAFE

Ann Arbor Rec & Ed is running SAFETY TOWN CAMP 2014 for all children entering Kindergarten in the Fall.

Here is a LIBRARY LIST of titles to teach safety with elementary school children.
The following topics are especially included:
BICYCLE SAFETY
Stranger Safety SAY NO And GO: Stranger Safety
Animal Safety MAY I PET YOUR DOG?
Getting Lost I LOST MY DAD
Fire Safety IF THERE IS A FIRE
Personal Boundaries BECAUSE IT'S MY BODY

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #470 - All That Jazz

Spectacular debuts, heartbreaking stories and two unforgettable young heroines to cheer for.

Last Night at the Blue Angel * * * by Rebecca Rotert. 10 yr. old Sophia takes up her usual spot behind the curtain as she watches her mother Naomi Hill performs for the last time at Chicago's Blue Angel Jazz Club. After a decade at the past-its-prime night spot, Naomi is finally about to catch her big break after her photo appears on the cover of Look Magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, irresistible and dangerous for those around her, Naomi is fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive, and no one knows this better than Sophia, whose fear dictates that she keeps a watchful eye and a running list of practical objects that must be reinvented in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. The one constant in Sophia's life is Jim, the photographer who is hopelessly in love with the mercurial Naomi, and is about to make her famous.

Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s vibrant Chicago jazz scene, and told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, "Last Night at the Blue Angel is an unforgettable tale about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have."

"(A) highly ambitious and stylish literary debut." Singer and songwriter Rotert's musical background informs Naomi's passion for performance, but it is her heartbreaking portrait of Sophia that will stay with us.

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas * by Marie-Helene Bertino - an enchanting debut novel about one day in the lives of three unforgettable characters.

Aspiring jazz singer Madeleine Altimari is a jerk (Don't judge me until you've read the book) - smart-mouthed, lice-headed, quick-fisted and a loner by choice. On Christmas Eve Eve, this 9 year old has just been expelled from school and cruel circumstances have denied her one chance to perform at school Mass. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken, drug-addled father, Madeleine doesn't realize that she is about to have the most extraordinary day and night of her life. On the same day, Sarina Greene, Madeleine's 5th grade teacher is having anxiety picking up the pieces after her divorce, and nervously looking forward to a dinner party with her high school chums (and an old crush).

Across town at The Cat's Pajamas, unless he could raise $30,000 in a flash, owner Lorca is about to lose his jazz club, and breaks his promise to let his musically talented, teenage (i.e. underage) son play in the house band. "As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life's endless possibilities over the course of one magical night."

Pushcart Prize and Iowa Short Fiction Award winner "Bertino's characters are spot-on, and her special brand of humor brings each one to life in this fresh and charming tale."

* = starred review
* * * = 3 starred reviews

July is National Parks and Recreation Month

Have you been enjoying visiting Ann Arbor's many parks to get the Park Explorer badges offered in our Summer Reading Game? I sure hope so, and this is a great time to do it - July is National Parks and Recreation Month!

Even if you're not playing along with the SRG, you can still have lots of fun at the parks around the town, county, and state. If you like taking long walks or hikes, don't miss Five-Star Trails: Ann Arbor and Detroit, which gives you some good trails to try like the Gallup Park Loop and several in the Pinckney State Park. More into cycling? Try Washtenaw County Bike Rides or Best Bike Rides Detroit and Ann Arbor, the latter of which includes road, bike path, and trail routes. Can't get enough of the outdoors? Want to spend DAYS and DAYS out in nature and never have to look at a computer screen or the back bumper of the guy in front of you in a traffic jam? Check out Michigan's Best Campgrounds and REALLY get to know your state's parks!

Those of you who'd prefer to stay indoors, now would be a good time to give the hilarious NBC comedy Parks and Recreation a try!

Fabulous Prizes Galore! Here's the Scoop!

Have you been reading intently, studiously filling out your paper Summer Game (SG) Reading Log, eagerly anticipating FAME, FORTUNE and PRIZES when you turn that lovely card in to AADL staff?

Well, we can't promise you the FAME and FORTUNE part of things — though that coupon for fine forgiveness might help you with your budget — but we CAN deliver you some FABULOUS prizes!

Coupons from our AMAZING, GENEROUS SUMMER GAME SPONSORS are arriving at the Downtown Library and Branches — and everyone (adults, teens and kids) gets to choose one when they turn in their game card!

This year we've been working to give you CHOICES GALORE! After completing the your SG Reading Log, you can claim one coupon.

Choices are:

1. AADL Fine Forgiveness
2. Zoom Lends DVD rental
3. A coupon from one of many local businesses, on a first-come-first-serve basis

Currently the Downtown Library and branches have coupons from Barry Bagels, Bivouac, Moosejaw ,Neopapalis, Nicola's Books and Zingerman's.

WATCH THIS SPACE — We will keep you posted on any new donors!

And of course, any kid or teen who completes their Reading Log still gets a FANTASTIC, NEW BOOK thanks to the support of The Friends of the AADL and the Scott and Mary Westerman Fund.

Be sure to stop in to those six local shops who've donated prizes and look for a Summer Game code to earn more points... and May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor!

THANKS FOR PLAYING!

Stranger Danger: Sizzling Summer Reads #3 (& Fabulous Fiction Firsts #469)

This bumper crop of debut psychological thrillers would keep you chilled throughout the summer. Alright, this is a long post, but every one of these deserve your attention.

The Good Girl * by Mary Kubica
Inner-city art teacher Mia Dennett, the black-sheep daughter of a prominent Chicago judge is taken hostage after a one-night stand. The kidnapper Colin Thatcher, instead of delivering her to his employer for ransom, hides her in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota. Gabe Hoffman, Chicago PD assigned to the case work closely with Eve, Mia's mother, to whom he finds himself increasingly attracted to. When eventually recovered, Mia has little memory of what happened to her.

"Kubica's debut thriller builds suspense steadily and will have readers guessing what's really going on until the final pages." It brings to mind Chevy Steven's smashing debut Still Missing.

From the author of the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers, One Kick * is the first in a nail-biting new series featuring 21 yr.-old Kick Lannigan, famously kidnapped when she was six, and rescued five years later. To add to her skill set (marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker) learned in captivity, Kick trained herself to be safe. When two children go missing in the Portland area, and an enigmatic and wealthy former weapons dealer approaches her with a proposition, Kick is set to be the crusader she has always imagined herself.

"A heart-stopping, entertaining thrill ride." Kick will remind readers of Lisbeth Salander as in The Girl who Kick the Hornet's Nest.

Drawing on her own grandmother's experiences Elizabeth is Missing * by British Emma Healey, is a sophisticated psychological mystery. Maud Horsham will be the first to admit that her memory these days is shaky at best but she knows her best friend is missing and in serious danger. But no one will believe her - not her daughter and not the police. So Maud writes everything down, to help her remember clues about her missing friend, and she also writes down how she is treated. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.

"Part mystery, part meditation on memory, part Dickensian revelation of how apparent charity may hurt its recipients, this is altogether brilliant." "Fans of Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind and S.J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep (both FFF) will find much to love here."

An international bestseller and winner of France's prestigious Prix du Quai des Orfèvres prize for best crime fiction, The 7th Woman : a Paris homicide novel by Frédérique Molay is the first of her novels to be translated into English (also available in French in our World Language Collection).

Nico Sirsky, head of the Paris Criminal Investigation Division, known as "La Brigade Criminelle," or "La Crim", and his team of elite detectives race against the clock to solve the murders of a series of young women, all of whom opened their doors to the killer who announces his intention to kill seven women in as many days. To put added pressure on Sirsky, the killer begins to stalk those closest to him.

This series introduces to police procedural fans an endearingly tortured, hardheaded and romantic cop in the vein of Harry Bosch and John Rebus.

An Untamed State * * *, a debut by Roxane Gay is the harrowing tale of a Miami woman's ordeal of her kidnapping during a visit to her native Haiti. Beaten and sexually assaulted, she was held for 13 days while her father, a wealthy businessman, refused to pay the ransom.

"Gay's depiction of Mireille's emotional trauma after her release is particularly intense, precisely capturing her alienation from her own identity that followed the kidnapping and the self-destruction that spilled out of her sense of disconnection... Among the strongest achievements of this novel is that Mireille's story feels complete and whole while emphasizing its essential brokenness. A cutting and resonant debut."

Veteran journalist (the Washington Post) Neely Tucker dazzles with a fast-paced, newsroom investigative journalism in The Ways of the Dead * *, the first in a projected crime series that is based on the real-life 1990s Princeton Place murders.

When the teenage daughter of a powerful Washington, D.C., judge is found dead, three local black kids are arrested for her murder, but reporter Sully Carter suspects there's more to the case. From the city's grittiest backstreets to the elegant halls of power, Sully pursues a string of cold cases, all the while fighting against pressure from government officials, police, suspicious locals, and his own bosses at the newspaper.

A "wickedly entertaining story of race, crime, the law, and the power of the media."

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews
* * * = 3 starred reviews

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