Penny Seats Theatre Company Presents Elektra

The Penny Seats Theatre Company presents the Greek Tragedy Elektra at 7 pm July 11 – 12, 17 – 19 and 24 – 26 in Ann Arbor's West Park, 215 Chapin St. between Miller and Huron, Chapin and Seventh. The show, recommended for ages 16 and up, was written by Sophocles and translated by Anne Carson. A description of the play from Wikipedia: "Set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan war, it is based around the character of Electra, and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon." Tickets are $10 and picnic dinners are available. More information is here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #468 - " ...the rich cargo, Congealed in the dark arteries" ~ Mervyn Peake

Two debut novels set in rural northeastern Pennsylvania.

Dry Bones in the Valley * * * by Tom Bouman

After losing his wife, a bereaved Henry Farrell returns to Wild Thyme Township in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, looking to spend his mornings hunting and fishing and his evenings playing music. As the lone policeman in "a landscape wracked by fracking, poverty, meth, and a general mistrust of authority", it falls to him to investigate when the body of a young man is found in the woods owned by a reclusive old codger, and his deputy George Ellis shot dead in his car. All before Henry literally stumbles over an ancient grave that might hold the answer to the current crime spree.

First in a projected 4-book series, "Bouman's debut shows rural noir at its finest: a poetically written mystery about a man struggling with his inner demons and an area of great natural beauty few had heard of before the natural gas boom." For fans of Craig Johnson, Julia Keller, and Wiley Cash.

In The Hollow Ground by award-winning debut novelist Natalie Harnett, underground mine fires forces 11 year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents.

Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest. When Brigid makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Inspired by the 1960s infamous Centralia coal mine fires, and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. "Not since To Kill a Mockingbird has a young character been so heartbreakingly captivating."

"A powerful story of love and survival. "

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Emerging Writers: Writing & Review Meetup

Thursday October 16, 2014: 7:00 pm to 8:45 pm -- Traverwood Branch: Program Room

This event is intended for adults and teens grade 6 and up.

This is a monthly meetup that welcomes all writers to ask questions, connect with other writers, or simply have a dedicated time and place to work on their projects. Local authors Lara Zielin and Margaret Yang will be on hand to offer encouragement, answer questions, and point writers to resources. These open houses complement the Emerging Writers Workshops. These events feature perspectives from both traditional publishing and indie publishing.

Emerging Writers: Writing & Review Meetup

Thursday September 18, 2014: 7:00 pm to 8:45 pm -- Traverwood Branch: Program Room

This event is intended for grade 6 - adult

This is a monthly meetup that welcomes all writers to ask questions, connect with other writers, or simply have a dedicated time and place to work on their projects. Local authors Lara Zielin and Margaret Yang will be on hand to offer encouragement, answer questions, and point writers to resources. Emerging Writers Workshops feature perspectives from traditional and indie publishing.

Get Twiggy With It

Are you pumped for this weekend’s big program Wooly Woods Crafting With Anna Hrachovec (of Mochimochi Land)?! Teens & adults will wrap twigs with yarn to make beautiful sculptures, as well as knit tiny creatures to live on them. Yes, twigs! Let me tell you, I know from experience that wrapping sticks with yarn is addicting, and the talented Anna takes it up a notch.

If you’re inspired to find more twig action, I recommend the book Super Simple Twig Projects: Fun and Easy Crafts Inspired By Nature. It's just that. A small youth-oriented book with some easy projects made of collected sticks and twigs. It goes over what supplies you’ll need to make things like trivets, dream catchers, baskets, vases, tiny rafts, and more. The question is: What if you wrap the twigs with yarn before you craft with them?

Adventure + Spirituality = Steps Out of Time

Several months back, Kate Soper gave me her book with this note tucked inside: "...I'm not sure what you'll think about this book! But my experience on the Camino meant a lot to me and I'd like to share it with you so here goes!" Full disclosure: I am a friend of Kate. That said, I also very much admire her book, Steps Out of Time: One Woman's Journey on the Camino.

Her spirited memoir is an account of a month-long, 500-mile hike across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. The narrative sparkles with natural beauty, camaraderie, memorable food, and the author’s personal determination to accomplish something magnificent. When she completed the hike, Kate was a changed woman.

Lots of research was done for this book, allowing Kate to offer practical advice including "12 Essential Tips for Santiago Pilgrims:" 1) Pack only lightweight, quick-drying clothing that you can layer. 2) Take well-fitting, well-used, and well-loved footwear, including good-quality, high-performance socks. 3) Your fully-loaded pack should weigh the lesser of 8 kg (17.6 lbs) or 10 percent of your body weight. (This includes a liter of water and the weight of the pack.). 4) Leave your phone at home. Ditto all other nonessentials. 5) Never leave in the morning without filling your water bottle and always carry food in your pack. 6) Wear a hat; keep your legs and arms covered or use sunscreen. 7) Bring a mechanical pencil and a lightweight journal (tearing off the cover will save a few ounces); write in it every day. 8) Unless you can sleep through noise equivalent to a freight train, bring ear plugs (snorers abound). 9) Be prepared to be humbled. 10) Remain determined to be open-minded. 11) Stop often to look and listen. 12) Try to be present in every moment.

This book is a great read and would well in a book group. Kate is retired and lives in Ann Arbor with her husband. She has worked as a lawyer, language professor, and U-M administator, among other jobs.

Mo’s Mustache

The world needs mo mustaches and Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton is a charming and funny new picture book that brings us MANY stylish and silly ‘staches. The awesome Mo is a trendsetter and his ‘stache styles are copied by many and Mo worries that he won’t stand out anymore. Can you be unique and still have the same mustache as those around you?!

Does YOUR ‘stache stand out?! For Mo and other mustache picture books here’s a handy dandy list for you.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #467: "And, too ignorant to be scared, too young to be awed, ...” ~ Neil Gaiman, Stardust

Three fable-like tales of awesome, irrepressible young protagonists from far-flung corners of the world - they will make you laugh, move you to tears, and inspire you to “Do one thing every day that scares you.” (~ Eleanor Roosevelt)

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden * by Jonas Jonasson, a "funny and completely implausible farce about a woman, a bomb and a man's frustrated ambition to overthrow the King of Sweden."

14-year-old latrine cleaner Nombeko Mayeki is exceptionally good at her job but she has grander plans. Cunning and fearless, she blackmails a sleazy criminal into teaching her how to read and write, and gets herself out of apartheid-era Soweto as a housemaid to a nuclear engineer, an incompetent fool who intends to send the Israeli Mossad a 1,700-pound atomic bomb. After a series of mishaps, Nombeko is forced to cart the bomb around Sweden, trying to prevent an idiot anarchist from blowing up the king.

"In this wild romp, Jonasson tackles issues ranging from the pervasiveness of racism to the dangers of absolute power while telling a charming and hilarious story along the way. In the satiriical voice that has earned him legions of fans the world over, Jonasson gives us another rollicking tale of how even the smallest of decisions can have sweeping, even global consequences."

"Beautifully written, filled with detailed prose meant to be savored," The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla, is "a captivating reminder of the blurred line between myth and reality. "

Born in Sweetwater, West Virginia with a mop of flaming red hair and port-wine stains on every surface of her body, Garnet Ferrari's sharp tongue serves her well against bullies and aggressors but powerless against legions of pilgrims camping outside her hilltop home, convinced she is a healer and maker of miracles.

Now the Vatican has sent Father Archibald Gormley, an emissary to investigate. "With its irresistible and irreverent blend of Southern Gothic and Sicilian "malocchio," a lush, exuberant tale of a reluctant saint, her unforgettable family, and the myriad difficulties (some real, some imagined) we all face when it comes to loving and being loved."

"(C)lever, funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, all at once."

Chaplin & Company by Mave Fellowes - a FFF for this UK author who herself had lived along the London canals.

18 yr.-old Odeline Milk packs up her worldly goods and heads for London, to pursue her single-minded dream of becoming, of all things, a great mime. With the small inheritance left by her mother, she buys sight-unseen, Chaplin and Company, a longboat moored at the canal neighborhood of Little Venice.

There she stumbles upon a peculiar underbelly of the city, full of marginalized, eccentric figures with whom she begins to form unpredictable alliances. Little by little she finds herself an essential part of this community of outsiders, discovers the value of companionship and, more important, the depths of her own courage.

"An endearing and surprisingly steely debut that paints the bizarre and the ordinary with equal sincerity, Chaplin & Company is a novel that reveals beauty in the most unlikely of places."

* = starred review

Scary Murder Mystery – With Ghosts!

In the mood for something spooky this summer? Then give The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud a try.

This unusual murder mystery is set in an alternative England where ghosts have grown more and more active in the last few decades and Psychic Detection Agencies like Lockwood & Co. employ talented young agents to track down and destroy the sources of these hauntings. When Lucy and her fellow Lockwood & Co. agents uncover an unsolved murder while searching for the source of a haunting, they decide to solve the mystery with the help of the victim’s locket…but someone is out to make sure they never solve this case.

Full of adventure and genuinely scary encounters with ghosts, this story may be written for children but it is not for the faint of heart. Recommended for fans of Alvin Schwartz’s scary stories or older readers who enjoyed Libba Bray’s The Diviners.

Audiobook fans may also wish to check out the audiobook of The Screaming Staircase, which was named one of ALA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014.

Cool Summer Drinks

When you think of a cool, refreshing drink that you'd like to have on a hot, summer day you think of lemonade, right? Or maybe iced tea.

But there is a lesser known, fizzy drink great for summer known as kombucha. It sort of tastes like a cross between carbonated water and tea. You can even add juice to it. There is another side benefit to drinking kombucha: It's fermented! You make it be starting with some tea that has loads of sugar in it. After adding a probiotic yeast and bacterial colony (known as a SCOBY mother) and letting it sit for several days to weeks, the probiotics break down the sugar into acids so that by the time you drink it, it's very low in sugar. With every cup you get loads of healthy bacteria and B-complex vitamins. Talk about healthy! There is a book that shows you how to make it at home here and here.

It’s summer so a lot of Ann Arborites are growing a vegetable garden. I know I am! But what if your garden is doing so well that you have armfuls of veggies that you don't know what to do with? A great way to get some awesome nutrition or to use up extra veggies and dark leafy greens is to make smoothies or juices. For a great smoothie all you need is a blender and a knife to cut up the toughest pieces. "But won't that taste icky?" I can hear you say. Fear not! The sweet fruit you add makes the bitter taste of vegetables like kale hardly detectable. Try it and I bet you'll be a smoothie addict in no time.

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