Fabulous Fiction Firsts #482

Winner of the 2010 Oe Prize, Japan's prestigious literary award, established to honor Kenzaburō Ōe; and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize - The Thief is the first novel by Fuminori Nakamura (in audio format) to be translated into English.

The nameless titular character is a deft Tokyo pickpocket, a loner who moves anonymously at the fringe of society. Through his mentor, he was drafted into an armed robbery by Kizaki, a vicious gangster. A simple job turned deadly when he learned that the old man they robbed was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. Meanwhile, his last tenuous connection to society is a desperate young boy forced into clumsy shoplifting by his addicted, prostitute mother. With nowhere left to run, the thief must barter his life with a labyrinthine test of his thieving prowess.

"Mystery/crime aficionados with exacting literary standards, as well as fans of Miyuki Miyabe; Natsuo Kirino; and Keigo Higashino" will find much to like here.

Watch for the October release of Nakamura's next novel to reach these shores - Last Winter We Parted is a "creepy if elegantly-crafted" standalone. The narrator, a nameless writer, gets assigned to pen an exposé of Yudai Kiharazaka, a 35-year-old Tokyo art photographer awaiting execution for burning two models to death.

Sleep Tight, Little Monsters!

Do you know a little monster who would like some sweet and silly (and maybe slightly icky) bedtime stories? Here are just a few of those included in AADL's picture book collection!

Hush, Baby Ghostling by Andrea Beaty
I'll simply remember all my gross ghostly things, and then I won't feel so bad! Baby Ghostling is scared for bedtime, but Mama has all the right tricks up her sleeve- she finds her little one's favorite skeleton doll, makes sure to "turn the darkness on" and evokes images of delightfully ghoulish beasties. Bright and enchanting illustrations will soothe even most apprehensive sleepers.

Goodnight, Little Monster by Helen Ketteman
Getting ready for bed could not be more adorable and gross! A cute monster child does everything he is supposed to- he eats his buggy nighttime snack, puts on his pajamas, and brushes his fangs. The illustrations are soft, with a perfect mix of cute and creepy.

Yeti, Turn Out the Light! by Greg Long
You would never expect such a big monster to be so scared of the dark! Yeti is the most nervous of sleepers, and turns the light back on whenever he sees a menacing shadow creeping up the wall. Luckily, he finds what caused the shadows- and it is not so scary after all!

Fairies in the Library!

Wow! Have you seen the new display in the downtown youth department? It was created by FAIRIES! As many of you know, the fairies have a special house here at the downtown library. Lots of fairy-lovers come and leave little notes and gifts at this house for the fairies—which they love! To say thank you for all these beautiful presents, the fairies have displayed some of them next to the youth desk along with a special thank-you note!

Of course, fairies don’t just live at the library: there are fairies all over Ann Arbor! There is even an urban fairy village near the library and another fairy village in Nichols Arboretum. It’s clear that we in Ann Arbor love fairies… and that fairies love us! Are you interested in creating your own fairies? The library has lots of resources that might be of help to you. Try Drawing Faeries: A Believer’s Guide, How to Draw and Paint Fairies, or Forest Fairy Crafts: enchanting fairies and felt friends from simple supplies.

If you’d rather just read and learn more about fairies, of course there are tons of great fairy stories at the library too. We have The complete book of the flower fairies: poems and pictures, which has beautiful illustrations accompanied by memorable and detailed poems about fairy life. There’s also My Treasury of Fairies and Elves: a collection of 20 magical stories, the beautiful The Little People: stories of fairies, pixies and other small folk and The Hidden Folk: stories of fairies, gnomes, selkies and other hidden folk.

Are fairy movies your thing? There’s the classic Ferngully, in which fairies help to save a rainforest from being cut down, and the enchanting Fairy Tale: a True Story, which tells of how two little girls discover real fairies and get swept up in the ensuing controversy in post-World War I England.

Happy fairy-seeking!

Man Booker Prize 2014 Shortlist Announced!

The shortlist of books under consideration for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction was released today.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (US)
Boring, contradictory dentist Paul watches as his identity is stolen online, and is horrified to observe that fake Paul may be better than actual Paul. This is a brilliant send up of the absurdity of modern life and cleverly calls into question the reality of identity in a virtual world.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Australia)
This is the epic tale of an Australian in a Japanese POW camp, tormented daily by his surroundings but also by the memory of an illicit affair, who receives life-changing news as he struggles to care for his fellow soldiers imprisoned on the Thai-Burma death railway.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (US)
Fowler's 22-year old narrator steals the show in this novel about a family in which the scientist parents raised their two children alongside Fern, a chimpanzee that they treat as one of their own human children, and the repercussions that occur when they are separated.

J by Howard Jacobson (UK)
Previous Booker winner Jacobson has written a dystopian tale on par with 1984 and A Brave New World, where brutality rules, the past is off limits, and even the act of falling in love is regarded with suspicion.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (UK)
The saga of a Calcutta family in 1967, The Lives of Others explores the family dynamic through issues as dramatic as political extremism and as mundane as feuding in-laws, capturing within it the differences between generations and the changes in society through the lens of the Ghosh family.

How to be Both by Ali Smith (UK)
How To Be Both is a pair of intertwined novellas featuring protagonists living centuries apart, connected by the fluidity of creativity and time.

This is the first year that all authors are eligible for consideration. Previously, the prize was only given to authors within the British commonwealth, so it's pretty exciting to see two Americans make it to the shortlist in their first year of eligibility.

A longlist of contenders was released in July; the final winner will be announced on October 14th.

Green Is a Chile Pepper

Green Is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors is a new picture book with beautiful illustrations. The book features a little girl who discovers and learns about all the colors found around her Spanish-American neighborhood and wonderfully depicts the culture. Green is cilantro, red is a ribbon, purple are the rides, pink are piñatas. Each page of the book has rhyming text, Spanish words, and Spanish color words. It also contains a mini glossary of the Spanish words found throughout the story. The book is a real treat for many reasons. Bueno!

Film Screening: The Michigan Beer Film

Sunday October 5, 2014: 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm -- Bill's Beer Garden - 218 S Ashley St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Join us at Bill's Beer Garden in downtown Ann Arbor for an evening screening of The Michigan Beer Film. The film explores Michigan's thriving craft beer industry through entertaining interviews and visits to breweries and venues.

The Michigan Beer Film visits brewers like Scott Sullivan, Ryan Sylvester, Eric Kuhnhenn, Joe Short; Hop growers like Brian Tennis, Joel Mulder, Jeff and Bonnie Steinman; Entrepreneurs like Ben Fleckenstein, Michael Kiser and Stephen Roginson. The Dark Horse Brewery stars of The History Channel’s new reality series Dark Horse Nation are also featured.

Bill's Beer Garden is an open-air venue, so grab a sweater if it's chilly, then come on down, watch the movie, and enjoy a good beer! This event is free to the public.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #481 “Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that's what.” ~ Salman Rushdie

If the cover jacket of Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix reminds you of retail catalogs for a particular furniture superstore with a maize-and-blue logo, it is intentional. No, I am not talking about that other BIG HOUSE.

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find the showrooms vandalized, furniture smashed and glassware broken. To put an end to the mystery, the snarky store manager assigns Amy and Ruth Ann to stay overnight in the store to catch the culprit, while Matt and Trinity on their own, are filming a reality show, hoping to find evidence of ghost-haunting. Together, they find more than they bargained for in this fun horror novel.

Longtime pop-culture journalist Grady Hendrix (website) infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the 21st century economy to a traditional haunted house story, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other more sinister accessories. "Nifty" is what a reviewer called it, and sure to entertain.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver, bestselling Teen author makes her adult debut with a mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones; Her Fearful Symmetry; and The Ocean at the End of the Lane - ”a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways."

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died. His estranged bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna return for their inheritance. Joining them are Alice and Sandra, ghosts of former residents bound to this country house. The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths. When a new ghost appears, the spirit and human worlds collide, with cataclysmic results.

Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, "Oliver's ear for dialogue is finely tuned. She's able to take the tropes of the traditional ghost story and give them new energy by creating ghosts who are realistic but still terrifyingly paranormal".

A page-turner, and one of this fall's buzz titles.

The Hundred-Year House * * * by Rebecca Makkai.

Located just north of Chicago, Laurelfield, designed in the English country style at the turn of the century for the Devohrs of Toronto, is home to Gracie Devohrs and her new husband Bruce. Sharing the antiquated carriage house are her daughter Zee, a Marxist literary scholar, Doug her out-of-work academic husband, Bruce's down-on-his-luck Texan son Case and his artist wife Miriam.

When Doug finds out Laurelfield served as an artists' and writers' colony in the 1920s, and Edwind Parfitt, the subject of his stalled biography (nevermind that it might be the only hope of a future academic position) had been a resident at the Colony, he is desperate to gain access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades, records that Gracie guards with a strange ferocity. But what he discovers when he finally gets his hands on them is more than he bargains for. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head.

"In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer."

"Its gothic elements, complexity, and plot twists are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin. Chilling and thoroughly enjoyable."

* * * = 3 starred reviews

NEW Picture Book: Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten

If you like cute and curious picture books, then you will love Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten! Little Penelope is delighted to play with a soft white kitten, who is entangled in a ball of knitting yarn. The chase is on as Princess Penelope runs after the kitten throughout the house, causing havoc and dragging yarn wherever it goes. This gentle story flows well with simple rhymes and would serve as an excellent lap book. My favorite element of this book is the glittery pink yarn, which readers can both see and feel winding in intricate patterns over the pages. For even more pink and pretty stories, check out Alice the Fairy or the wordless Flora and the Flamingo.

A Southern Charmer for Children

You’ve heard of Bigfoot, but have your heard of his cousin, the Sugar Man? Well, in Kathi Appelt’s The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, you can learn all about the illusive Sugar Man and the creatures who call his Texas swamp their home.

As the story opens, raccoon brothers Bingo and J’miah have been charged with waking the Sugar Man if the swamp comes under danger. And of course, danger arrives right on schedule. But before it does, readers are treated to two richly interwoven stories – one about a pair of young raccoons trying to prove their merit as Swamp Scouts and another about a twelve-year-old boy trying to save his family’s restaurant after his grandfather’s death. Filled with fantastic turns-of-phrase, if you enjoy books with a strong Southern voice, then you’ll love this one. Plus, the audiobook is narrated by native Texan Lyle Lovett who adds a wonderful Southern charm to this story.

For older teen and adult fantasy fans: The Black Jewels Trilogy

Fantasy fans may be excited to learn about the Black Jewels Trilogy that was recently added to the AADL collection. Written in the late 1990s and early 2000s by Anne Bishop, this is one of only a few fantasy series that I have read that maintains a strong lead female character. The world that Bishop introduces readers to in the first installment of the series, Daughter of the Blood, is unlike any other, real or imagined. Comprised of various “realms” and controlled by female witch-queens, each creature in this world has a particular level of magical power based on the darkness and value of their “birthright jewel.”

As the series opens, the realms of this magical world have fallen into ruin due to rampant corruption and extreme distrust among their leaders. Everyone is poised, waiting for the all powerful witch-queen that has been prophesied to come and make everything right again. Daughter of the Blood introduces readers to this long-awaited heroine, Jaenelle, a girl who is a mere 8 years old at the beginning of the story. Three different, powerful men take it upon themselves to protect her from those who hope to ruin her until she comes of age, but her own powers make controlling her and keeping her safe nearly impossible.

Admittedly, the complexity of the fantasy world in this series makes the story a bit difficult to comprehend at first, but readers who battle through the first hundred pages of the trilogy will be glad they did. The trilogy packs in all the elements of a great fantasy tale: magic, love and hate, good and evil, epic battles, kings and queens, ancient castles… the works. After Daughter of the Blood, the story continues with Heir to the Shadows and concludes with Queen of the Darkness.

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