Fabulous Fiction Firsts #508

January brings a number of terrific debut novels. The one I am most excited to share is Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (MFA, Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan). Follow her on Facebook, and plan to attend her signing @ Literati, 7pm on January 27.

She calls herself Julie now, from California. For the past 2 years, Grace restores bric-a-brac, repairs antiques and jewelry in a Paris chop shop, and lives alone in a shabby room. Regularly, she checks the Garland (TN) newspaper online for news of a case involving robbery of The Wynne House, a local heritage estate and museum, and the two young men caught for the crime, a heist that Grace meticulously engineered. Now, Grace's past and carefully constructed lies are about to catch up with her half way around the world, as the two men are being paroled.

In a series of flashbacks, from small-town USA to the Manhattan art scene, and the backstreets of Europe, we follow the "unbecoming-of-age" of a young woman with a special gift for restoration and for reinventing herself with equal deftness.

"Mesmerizing, nail-biting, atmospheric, and sensual... Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity."

"Scherm mixes a character study with a caper novel full of double-crosses, lies, and betrayals... She is at her best when describing precious objects: a Dutch master's still life, a James Mont cigar box with hidden compartment, an ornate centerpiece with fanciful fruit and figurines, and silver spoons ignored by their owners but appreciated by the professional hired to evaluate them."

Readers looking for an elegantly well-played cat-and-mouse game should delight in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1954); The Thomas Crown Affair (1968, and the 1999 remake); and White Collar, the just concluded (sadly) tv series.

Fans of Gillian Flynn who appreciate "(a) bleak tone, deeply flawed protagonist, and dysfunctional relationships" wouldn't want to miss this one. And let's not forget Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels as read-alikes.

Waiting (not so) patiently for Pioneer Girl: an annotated autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder?

Me too! I am crazy about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and learning more about her life after the books and her work as a writer. Pioneer Girl was Laura’s first attempt at writing her memoirs, and unlike her beloved Little House series, this book was aimed at adults. Pamela Smith Hill and the South Dakota Historical Society have done an incredible job of filling out Laura’s story - adding details about minor characters she encounters along the way, or explaining how events in this book were later fictionalized and expanded in later works. It’s a dense read, but Laura lovers will be amazed at all the new things there are to learn about her life and times.

While you’re waiting for Pioneer Girl, try:

- William Anderson - William Anderson is a big name in Laura Ingalls Wilder scholarship. Not only has he written multiple books on her, he has helped found and secure some of the home sites and museums, such as at Rocky Ridge, Laura and Almanzo’s home and farm in Missouri. Especially check out The Little House Guidebook and Pioneer Girl: the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These were written for a youth audience but any Laura fan will appreciate the historic photos.

- Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink - Caddie Woodlawn is a spunky eleven-year-old tomboy in 1860s Wisconsin, and these stories of her adventures in the woods are based on the stories of the author’s grandmother. This is the nearest readalike to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s own writing in my opinion, and due to episodes of friction between the Native Americans and the settlers, it’s probably shares the most with Little House on the Prairie.

- The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure - Blogger McClure travels from Laura location to Laura location - from wading in the banks of Plum Creek to sleeping in a covered wagon during a hailstorm on the South Dakota prairie - and encountering varieties of Little House fans from lookalike contest competitors to doomsday-prepping butter churners.

- Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen - This novel tells the story of Lee Lien, whose childhood is spent crisscrossing the Midwest as her family moves from managing one Asian buffet to another. Now an adult, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may connect her family to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter. In tracing Wilder family history, she makes some discoveries about her own family as well.

- Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden - This biography of the author’s grandmother tells of two college friends from New York who take on an invitation to become teachers rural Northwest Colorado in 1916 - and enter a whole new world with different social conventions, students who have to ski to class on barrel staves and don’t know who the president is, and the challenge of being the only marriage prospects for miles around.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Her Place in the World

Monday March 23, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens grades 6 and up
This event will be recorded

Interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder is at a peak – especially with the recent publication of her autobiography Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

At this special AADL evening, explore the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose experiences traveling and homesteading with her pioneer family spawned her series of popular children's books. Author and Wilder scholar William Anderson and University of Michigan History professor Michelle McClellan lead us on a journey through Laura's life and tell the story of how the places she lived have now taken on a life of their own.

Wilder's legacy extends far beyond her Little House series; millions know her from the 1970s television show based on her books, and the locations she wrote about, including Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Missouri, have become tourist destinations for her devoted fans.

 

Author Ayelet Waldman Discusses Her Acclaimed New Novel 'Love And Treasure'

Media Player

November 11, 2014 at the Downtown Library, Multi-Purpose Room

Author Ayelet Waldman discusses the inspiration behind her latest novel, "Love and Treasure." Waldman is the author of Red Hook Road, The New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, and other popular novels.

"Love and Treasure" is a spellbinding novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, weaving a tale around the true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in World War II.

The tale begins in 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, when victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the officer charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust.

Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand her grandfather's guilt - and a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

This event was cosponsored by AADL and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor as part of the 2014 Jewish Book Festival.

Length: 00:49:39
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
Related Event:
Author Ayelet Waldman Discusses Her Acclaimed New Novel 'Love And Treasure'


Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, is coming to Ann Arbor

Hugely popular graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, and many other graphic novels, will be coming to the Michigan Theater on January 22, 2015. Bechdel's work intertwines political and personal spheres. She uses stories of her father's life before gay rights and her mother's life prior to the women's rights movement to portray intimate images of oppression. In Fun Home, her most popular work, Bechdel shares her personal tales of coming-of-age and coming out in the 1950s and 1960s, under the shadow of her parents' unhappy marriage and nation-wide homophobia.

Bechdel's talk at the Michigan Theater will begin at 5:10pm. The event is free and open to the public. You can read more about Bechdel and the event itself here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #507 -“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” ~ Gautama Buddha

Before I Go * by Colleen Oakley, given the premise, could have been a sentimental tearjerker but instead, yes, it is heart-wrenching of course, but surprisingly upbeat and life-affirming.

27 year old grad. student Daisy Richmond beat cancer once but on her third "Cancerversary", the cancer is back - Stage IV, aggressive and inoperable. She knows she won't be around for husband Jack's graduation from vet school - something they have worked, sacrificed and delayed their life-plans (kids and vacations) for. What terrifies Daisy most is not dying, but leaving brilliant, domestically-challenged, absent-minded Jack on his own. So instead of planning some "make-a-wish" grown-up getaway for her last days, she is going to find Jack a wife with the time she has left.

With the help of her best friend Kayleigh, Daisy systematically scouts out dog parks (must love dogs) coffee shops and online dating sites looking for the perfect match for Jack. But when it looks like she is way too successful in her quest, Daisy has a change of heart.

Debut novelist Oakley "expertly tugs at the heartstrings with well-rounded characters and a liberal dose of gallows humor."

For readers who enjoyed Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth (a FFF); P.S. I love you by Cecelia Ahern that has been adapted into film; Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber; and Promises to Keep by Jane Green - novels that deal with difficult issues of illnesses and grief, holding on and letting go of the ones we love.

* = starred review

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous!

"When Roger started out for school, his mother set a simple rule. She said, "Now Roger, you go straight-- straight to class and don't be late!" Roger tried hard to obey, he knew that he should not delay. He shouldn't wander or explore, but then he came upon a store..."

In The Boy Who Cried Fabulous by Leslea Newman, Roger is a quirky boy who has trouble going to and from school. The reason? He can't help but become side-tracked by all of the fabulous things he sees! When Roger finds himself late for school (again!), his parents ban him from saying the word 'fabulous' anymore. What will Roger do when he can no longer explore "a world too wondrous to ignore"?

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous is a funny rhyming story about curiosity and accepting others differences. The illustrations are vibrant and bright, and become more and more outlandish as the story continues. Other fabulous titles from Leslea Newman include Donovan's Big Day, Just Like Mama, and Dogs, Dogs, Dogs!

PreK Bits - Q is for Quilt

Ms. Rachel's storytime was brought to you by the letter "Q" this week.

A FAR-FETCHED STORY ends with a "far-fetched story quilt" to keep the family "warm as folklore" through the winter.
"Five Plum Buns In The Bakery Shoppe" is a rhythmic counting poem about disappearing buns in the bakery shoppe.
Each customer enters the shoppe to buy a bun "with a quarter in their hand".
The rhyme is traditional and has been passed down orally. A recorded version was not found in the library.
OWL AT HOME tells of the night there are "Strange Bumps" under Owl's quilt, when he is trying to go to sleep.
Children left with a stamp on their hand of a "quarter moon" smiling at them ....

Here are more stories featuring quilts, since quilts are full of family stories about each patch.
MOOSHKA A QUILT STORY by Julie Paschkis, and The KEEPING QUILT by Patricia Polacco, are Jewish immigrant quilt stories.
PAPA And The PIONEER QUILT by Jean Van Leeuwen, an historical story from the American westward pioneer era.
SHOW WAY by Jaqueline Woodson, an historical story of how quilts led slaves north to freedom.
LUKA'S QUILT by Georgia Guback, an Hawaiian quilt story.
The QUILT by Ann Jonas, of warm memories playing under the quilt.
SAM JOHNSON And The BLUE RIBBON QUILT by Lisa Campbell Ernst, a story of Sam the Farmer who found he enjoys sewing. Now he wishes to join his wife's quilting circle.
So then ... save your favorite scraps and make a quilt that tells YOUR stories.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers, has done it again. Her newest children’s fiction novel, Cartwheeling In Thunderstorms is a fantastic treat of words and imagery.

Young Wilhelmina Silver, better known as Will, Cartwheel, or Wildcat, lives half-wild in Africa on a farm with her English born father and best animal friends. She spends time running the plains with her best friend Simon, and the monkeys and hyenas she’s grown to love and care for. Will is as feisty as can be and the boys are no match for her wit and spunk. Whip-smart, spontaneous, and ever a dreamer, Will’s happy and magical world gets ripped apart when the family farm is sold and she is sent to a boarding school in London, where she sticks out like dirty thumb.

It’s a charming story with an irresistable voice in Will Silver.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #506

Wildalone * by Krassi Zourkova opens with an enchanting tale of a monk's erotic encounter with samodivias (or wildalones), and thus sets the scene for this "darkly imaginative debut novel full of myth, magic, romance, and mystery. "

Thea(dora) Slavin, a Bulgarian piano prodigy arrives on the Princeton campus and is immediately thrown into the maelstrom of freshman activities. Beyond the requisite college-life adjustments, she is juggling a demanding schedule of classes, practice and performance, as well as struggling to adapt to unfamiliar American ways.

Privately, Thea is harboring a secret ambition - to find out what happened to her sister Elza who died violently 15 years ago as a Princeton freshman and her body went missing mysterious before the family had a chance to claim it. Thea grew up in the family's oppressive silence concerning Elza's death and is determined to find out what happened.

Her first clue comes from an unlikely source - her Art History professor who leads and baits her to a Greek vase in the Museum, depicting the Dionysian Mysteries. Then there is her shadowy "stalker", a devilishly handsome and exceedingly enigmatic young man who fades in and out of her consciousness. Before long, she finds herself romantically entangled with not only Jake Estlin, but also with his older brother Rhys, gradually being drawn into a sensual mythic underworld as irresistible as it is dangerous - one that might yield the answers to Elza's fate, as well as the terrifying truth about her own family.

(Bulgarian native) "Zourkova (Princeton, Art History and Harvard Law) pulls off a balancing act that few debut authors manage: a clever, dark (paranormal) romance steeped in mystery, with a bittersweet thread of melancholy and keen sense of place."

"Mesmerizing and addictive,... a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches." The ending strongly hints at a sequel. Let's hope we won't have to wait long.

* = starred review

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