Fabulous Fiction Firsts #459 - Paris, far more than setting

Novelists' endless fascination with the city and we readers can't seem to get enough of it.

A Paris Apartment * - cramp, decrepit, shuttered for 70 years but it is Paris, and it is in the 9th arrondissement. Sotheby's European furniture specialist April Vogt is glad for the assignment, and for putting a little distance between her and a troubled marriage. Under the dust sheets, she finds a treasure trove of priceless furniture and works of art - one being a stunning portrait of Marthe de Florian, owner of the apartment and one of Belle Epoque's most renowned actresses/courtesans.

In Michelle Gable's debut, once April begins to read over letters and journals written by Marthe, suddenly it is no longer about the materiality and provenance of the objects, but more about an extraordinary life lived and the secrets buried in the apartment. In the process, April is force to take a deeper look into herself.

"Gable's debut is strongest when Paris is the focus...". "With its well-developed, memorable characters and the author's skillful transitioning between story lines, finding similarities in the lives of two women decades apart, this stunning and fascinating debut will capture the interest of a wide audience but particularly those interested in stories about women behind famous men..."

I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You * is a sardonic dig at Richard Haddon's predicament. In Courtney Maum's debut, as the novel opens in 2002, English artist Richard Haddon is on top of the world. His first solo show in a trendy gallery sold out. His beautiful French wife Anne, is a successful attorney with pedigree, and wealthy in-laws had bestowed on the young couple a palatial apartment at an enviable Pairs address. Then Anne finds the letters from Richard's mistress, a brash and sexy American journalist who has since moved on. Well, sort of.

In an effort to win back Anne's respect and affection, Richard intends to create the next masterpiece, proposing a controversial installation that would be a sly critique on Iraq's role in the global conflict around the issues of Weapon of Mass Destruction.

"Equally funny and touching, the novel strikes deep, presenting a sincere exploration of love and monogamy. These characters are complex, and their story reflects their confusion and desire... (a)n impressive, smart novel". (This debut is one of Library Reads picks for June).

Now, most appropriate for the City of Love, Emma Mars' (a pseudonym) Hotelles * - "Rife with sexual tension and mystery" this first tale in a trilogy is about a young Paris escort; the Hotel des Charmes where each room is dedicated to one of French history's greatest seductresses; and a silver notebook.

"Funny, sensual, candid, and revealing". It has been compared to The Story of O by Pauline Réage, originally published in 1954 and quickly became the talk of the Paris salons and cafes. While the identity of the author remains shrouded for 40 years, the novel went on to win the prestigious Prix des Deux Magots in 1955, and is still one of the most "curious and mysterious novels of recent times".

While I have your attention...just one more. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 * *, an electrifying union of fact and fiction by Francine Prose, built around a famous photograph entitled Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932 by Brassai. Prose originally intends to write a biography of Violette Morris, a decorated athlete, race-car driver, and Nazi collaborator (she is the one NOT in a dress).

"In an intricately patterned, ever-morphing, lavishly well-informed plot..., it is Paris in the 1920s (that) shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves." "A dark and glorious tour de force".

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Moo!

There are a lot of books about mooing at AADL. If you’re a reader of children’s picture books, animals and animal sounds are heavily featured in this area. Moo! by David LaRochelle is one of my favorite new picture books, and it’s told with only one word: MOO!

The gist of the story is that the cow gets ahold of the farmer’s car and takes it for a ride, and well, things don’t go so well for him. The coolest part of the whole book is that the entire is story is told using only the word “moo.” It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn about reading aloud, voice inflection and how the same word sounds differently when said with a “.” or an “!” at the end. Moo. Moo? Moo! Mooooooooooooo. Give it a whirl be ready to laugh!

PreK BITS - SPRING time STORIES

Who's seen TULIPS? Whose seen ROBINS with WORMS?
Who's heard THUNDER? Who wears BOOTS in the RAIN?
Who's seen GREEN GRASS?
It's SPRING !!!

Ms. Rachel led WAITING For SPRING STORIES in Storytime.
The Bunnies hid from the rain. The Wind stole the clothes from the laundry line and the Tree gave the clothes back.
Everyone in the house got into bed as the thunder went BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!.

If you want more stories of SPRING, here are some favorites:
999 FROGS WAKE UP by Ken Kimura
KEVIN DISCOVERS SPRING by Liesbet Slegers
FLETCHER And The SPRINGTIME BLOSSOMS by Julia Rawlinson
SPRING THINGS by Bob Raczka
10 HUNGRY RABBITS by Anita Lobel
RUNNY BABBIT: A Billy Sook ... poetry in spoonerisms by Shel Silverstein

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #458

Julia Dahl, a reporter for CBS News and the New York Post specializing in crime and criminal justice impresses with her debut Invisible City *. A solid good read for fans of Gillian Flynn, Cara Hoffman and Laura Lippman. (Check out the New York Times Sunday Book Review).

Twenty-something Rebekah Roberts thinks herself lucky to be hired on as a stringer for the New York Tribune, a daily tabloid. On a brutal winter's evening, she is sent to cover a story at a Brooklyn scrap yard where the body of a woman, head shaved and naked is found. Before the identity of the victim could be established, the body is carried off and quickly buried without an autopsy. She is shocked by the NYPD's lackadaisical handling of the case and its reluctance to cross the ultra-orthodox Hasidic community, even at the risk of letting a killer get away with murder.

There is also a personal reason for Rebekah to keep pursuing the story. She is drawn to this cloistered world of the Hasidic community, hoping to find out more about her mother who abandoned her as an infant to return to her Hasidic roots. Then she crosses path with a rogue detective who knows her mother, arranges for Rebekah to interview persons close to the victim, and presses her to get at the truth. "As Rebekah wades deeper into her mother's world, she finds both brutal truths and a society that eschews outsiders."

"This novel is particularly notable for its combination of a skillfully wrought, increasingly suspenseful mystery populated by well-drawn characters and a deeply sympathetic understanding of a contemporary culture that remains insular for its own understandable reasons."

The explosive conclusion clearly anticipates a sequel. Can't wait.

* = starred review

The Secret of Raven Point

My memories of my late grandfather always involve the stories he told about his time in the army during World War II. I feel lucky that I was able to hear them before he died ten years ago. But did he talk only about the happy ones? What else did he experience that I will never know about? The Secret of Raven Point is a beautiful, moving story about a teenage girl who learns the hard way about the horrific nature of war and what it can do to people. I feel that this book deepened my connection with my own grandfather because it gave me a clearer glimpse of what he may have experienced, and why he needed to tell his story over and over.

The main character in the book, Juliet Dufresne, lies about her age, becomes a nurse and travels to the front lines in Italy when she receives a cryptic letter from her enlisted brother. She learns that he is missing and is desperate to find out what happened to him and whether he can be rescued. Meanwhile, she begins to work with a psychiatrist who is trying to prevent a patient who has experienced post-traumatic stress from facing court-martial for desertion in battle. The patient is so traumatized he cannot even speak. By coincidence, this same man may be the only one who knows what happened to Juliet’s brother, and helping the patient overcome his PTSD may be the only way to save him.

Myths and Common Fallacies

Have you ever wondered if what you were taught in school is completely wrong? Is blood really blue in the veins as it travels back to the heart like it is in textbook illustrations? Were Greek statues really colorless, boring decorations in the ancient world? By reading The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn't Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew you’ll learn that so much of the information that you think you know is factually inaccurate.

Did Marie Antoinette really say "Let them eat cake"? Did Columbus really discover that the world was round in 1492? Find out by reading more about common historical misconceptions like Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of World History or Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History.

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun

Summer and no school is just around the corner, and this giant book is full of ways to keep you busy with a variety of subjects. While the book features "serious fun," it's written more on the funny side. It has a great cover and great illustrations, which totally nudge me to like certain books more.

Unbored gives you big ideas and how to start them, including how to grow a science garden, make your own games, zines, and LED graffiti You can also learn how to perform kitchen experiments, blog, fix your bike, and lots more.

The book also features some fun lists! Including a list of banned books you should read, secret history of young adult novels, best ever sports movies, best ever stop-action movies, best ever animal movies, best ever DIY fiction, and the best ever clean hip hop songs.

There’s also informational bits thrown into the book. Learn some weird facts about condiments, or browse a list of kitchen cures, and learn how to train your grownup to be a ninja.

UNBORED! That’s what you’ll be at the end of the book. Be sure to check out the book preview to see examples of what's inside. And check out the awesome website for the book! There is a TON of great stuff to look at.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #457 - Classics Reboot

Fans of her Tony Hill (adapted into TV series as Wire in the Blood) and Kate Brannigan crime series will rejoice in Val McDermid's latest - the first in a projected new series, and a homage to Jane Austen by taking on her most "gothic-toned story", recasting a contemporary Northanger Abbey at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

In this 21st century novel, Cat(herine) Morland, though still the naive vicar's daughter in a quaint Dorset village, is a Facebook and other social media junkie as well as a slave to all devices digital like teenagers everywhere. A voracious fiction reader who is partial to the gothic, finding little adventure and romance in real life. When an invitation for a month-long stay in Edinburgh comes her way, Cat is delighted. But the whirlwind of outings, new friendship, and a budding love interest (the dreamy Henry Tilney, an up-and-coming lawyer whose family home is the beautiful and forbidding Northanger Abbey), might just be more than Cat could handle.

"A delectable, note-perfect modern update of the Jane Austen classic, Northanger Abbey tells a timeless story of innocence amid cynicism, the exquisite angst of young love, and the value of friendship."

When an unnamed narrator opens with "Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again", savvy readers will immediately recognize the direct reference to Daphne du Maurier's classic Rebecca in Alena by Rachel Pastan.

At the Venice Biennale, a newly minted art historian cannot believe her good fortune when offered a position as the curator of a cutting-edge museum on Cape Cod. The Nauk (Nauquasset), founded by the wealthy, enigmatic, somewhat brooding Bernard Augustin, is still weathering the turmoils from the mysterious disappearance of its previous curator - the charismatic and beautiful Alena. The recalcitrant staff, loyal to Alena, threatens to stifle the new curator's every effort to realize her own creative vision. The only likely ally (and love interest) is found in the hard-bitten local police chief Chris Passoa, who persists to investigate Alena's disappearance, even after two years.

"Stirring and provocative..." "Hitchcockian..." "Flush with erotic intrigues and insights into real, working artists, Pastan has written a smart, chilling thriller that leaves readers thoroughly spooked."

Readalikes for upcoming AADL speaker Daniel Jones' Modern Love column!

Daniel Jones, editor of the weekly New York Times column Modern Love, will be speaking at the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library this Sunday at 3:00. The Modern Love column is adored by readers worldwide, and can be found online here. Jones has also written and edited several books, the latest of which is Love Illuminated: exploring life’s most mystifying subject (with the help of 50,000 strangers) and was published this year. Using thousands of the stories that he has been sent over the past decade, Jones extracts the ten aspects of love as he sees them from these tales of joy and woe, explaining these aspects in the book. At his talk on Sunday, Jones will discuss Love Illuminated and his column and will answer questions, and there will be the opportunity for attendees to purchase his books. You can read more about the event here.

If you are a fan of Jones’ column and his work, as I am, you may want to check out some of the essay and story collections on love that we have here at AADL as many of them read similarly to the column. I enjoyed This I Believe: on love, part of the popular “this I believe” series. There’s also Handbook for the Heart: original writings on love and Heart of the City: nine stories on love and serendipity on the streets of New York. If you enjoy poetry, the collection You Drive Me Crazy: love poems for real life is fun and applicable to all as is 77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor.

You can also read more about Love Illuminated and the Modern Love column in this interview with Jones.

A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life

In 2007, James Bowen was a recovering heroin addict enrolled in a methadone program, lived in sheltered housing, and busked on the streets of London for rent, utilities, and his daily bread. He had been in and out of homelessness for years, estranged from his father and geographically distant from his mother in Australia. He did what he could do to get by without falling back into the traps of his past, one day at a time.

And then one spring evening he met an orange tom cat outside of his apartment. Assuming he belonged to someone else, Bowen left him alone. But then the friendly cat was back again. And again. And eventually Bowen took him in, brought him to the vet to clean up a wounded leg, and gave him a safe place in which to recover. But even when Bowen tried to find the cat's family (no luck) or put him back on the street (the cat wouldn't have that nonsense), he relented and decided to keep Bob - named for a character in the TV show Twin Peaks - on a permanent basis.

What really surprised Bowen, and what he and Bob became best known for (featured around the world in YouTube videos) was when Bob decided to accompany Bowen on his busking rounds!

If you want to read more about this delightful duo, and learn about Bowen and Bob's close calls with police, dogs, and drunks, but also their encounters with old friends, gift-giving strangers, helpful store workers, and Bowen's monumental step toward clean living, check out A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life. It's a quick and fun read that is sure to warm your heart.

Love cat stories? Don't miss these other great reads!
Homer's Odyssey
Kitty Cornered
The Cat Who Came for Christmas

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