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.

Parent’s Corner: Get Them Writing

May is Short Story Month – a time to celebrate the short story and hone those writing skills. This isn’t just for adults! Many children love listening to stories, and writing their own is the next step in the process. AADL has books on helping children with their writing, and some are located on the Parent Shelf.

The Parent Shelf is located in the downtown youth area, and on this shelf you’ll find a variety of parent-child related books on a multitude of topics- including autism, and everything from language to potty training to safety to bullying. These books are available for checkout and can be found in the catalog when searching “parent shelf.” Here are a few to jumpstart writing success:

* Your child's writing life: how to inspire confidence, creativity, and skill at every age

* 1001 writing projects for students: a paragraph a day plan for writing success

* Beyond bedtime stories: a parent's guide to promoting reading, writing, and other literacy skills from birth to 5

* Ways of writing with young kids : teaching creativity and conventions unconventionally

Speaking of short stories, congratulations to the winners of AADL's 2014 Teen Short Story Contest and good luck to those 3rd-5th graders who entered the Short Story Challenge this year!

Audiobook for Kids: Rooftoppers

As a baby, Sophie is found floating in a cello case after a shipwreck and is taken in by the man who found her, eccentric Englishman Charles Maxim who uses books for plates and toast for bookmarks! Sophie and Charles live a quiet, happy life together until Sophie’s twelfth birthday, when the authorities decide that Charles is not a fit guardian. Rather than letting Sophie be taken to an orphanage, Sophie and Charles embark on a quest to find Sophie’s mother with the cello case as their only clue. The pair travels to Paris where Sophie meets the illusive rooftoppers who agree to help her with her search for her missing mother.

The audiobook of Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell has the feel of a classic with its gorgeous writing, gentle humor and determined young heroine, and narrator Nicola Barber gets the accents exactly right. The novel is also reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo with its adventures through the secret world of Paris.

Writing Workshop with Sara Ryan, queer author of YA novels and comics!

Monday June 23, 2014: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for Teens in Grades 6-12 and Adults

Sara will lead a few short writing exercises and answer questions about her books, publishing, and being an out queer author. Sara Ryan grew up in Ann Arbor. She's the author of the Lambda Literary Award finalist novel Empress of the World, the Oregon Book Award-winning novel The Rules for Hearts, and most recently of Bad Houses with Carla Speed McNeil, a TIME Magazine and USA Today Top Graphic Novel of 2013. Find her online at sararyan.com or @ryansara on Twitter. Literati Bookstore will be selling Sara's books and Sara will do a book signing.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #454 - “those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers...” ~ Anna Quindlen

Leaving home for the first time armed with a prestigious scholarship (Art History) at Columbia, 23 yr.-old Brit Esme Garland is dazzled by Manhattan and smitten with the attention of Mitchell van Leuven, a gorgeous, wealthy, blue-blooded New Yorker with an appetite for all things erotic. He abruptly ends their short fling before Esme could tell him she is pregnant.

Determined to get through this on her own, Esme takes a job in a secondhand bookstore on Broadway, a gathering place for the eccentric, who watch over her through her pregnancy - from the laconic owner to the taciturn, guitar-playing night manager. Together they must struggle for the survival of the store in the challenging retail slum.

The Bookstore * by first time novelist Deborah Meyler is a "sharply observed and evocative tale of learning to face reality without giv­ing up on your dreams... sheer enchantment from start to finish."

"Above all, it's about the love of books. A deeply satisfying novel you will keep close to your heart, written in a style by turns witty and poetic."

Award-winning author Gabrielle Zevin gives us "(a) likable literary love story about selling books and finding love" in The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry * (More in a recent NPR interview).

A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books on Alice Island (think Martha's Vineyard) off the coast of MA, is going through a tough spot: he lost his wife in a car accident, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, until an unlocked door brings the most astonishing gift, and a young publisher's rep. offers him the chance to make his life over.

The Storied Life is about "a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving.” It also tops the April LibraryReads list of the Top Ten Books that Librarians Across the Country Love.

Sarah Jio's Goodnight, June imagines the inspiration behind Goodnight Moon, a beloved classic among generations of young readers.

June Anderson, a successful NY financier is lonely and unhappy in her personal life. She is unexpectedly called home to Seattle, to settle her great-aunt Ruby's estate and to dispose of Bluebird Books - the children's bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store's papers, June stumbles upon letters between Ruby and the late Margaret Wise Brown, and that Brown not only visited the bookstore, but Ruby had in fact, inspired Goodnight Moon.

When June receives notice the shop is within days of foreclosure, she has a change of heart. In her rally to save the bookstore, June learns an important lesson about acceptance and forgiveness.

* = starred review

Multicultural Chapter Books: The Alvin Ho Collection

Second-grader Alvin Ho loves playing the brave Firecracker Man at home but at school he is too afraid to say a word. In fact, Alvin is afraid of many things but faces fear after fear in the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look. In the first book, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things, Alvin worries about making friends at school. In its sequel Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters, Alvin and his family get ready for Alvin’s first camping trip. Not only are these books delightfully funny, but the situations are very relatable. The audiobook is a particular treat, narrated by child actor Everette Plen who brings a fantastic youthful energy to these stories.

I think my favorite thing about the Alvin Ho series,though, is their celebration of multiculturalism. Alvin’s close-knit Chinese-American family includes a father who spouts Shakespearean insults and a grandfather who sews, and Alvin’s growing friendship with classmate Flea offers a wonderful message about accepting friends who are different from us.

The series continues with Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-made Catastrophes; Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances; and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in The Night. More books in the series are also available as audiobooks.

Teen Fiction Picks: How My Summer Went up in Flames

How My Summer Went up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is about a girl named Rosie whose summer is not off to a great start. Her boyfriend cheats on her, resulting in her accidentally setting his car on fire when she tries to burn a box (full of all of the mementos he has ever given her during their nine-month relationship) in his driveway. This results in a temporary restraining order. Naturally, Rosie is depressed and still hung up on her ex. As a result, her parents get the bright idea of sending her out on a road trip with her nerdy best friend Matty and two of his equally-nerdy friends who are all obsessed with Star Wars. Despite Matty’s friends’ interests, Rosie starts to think that tagging along on this roadtrip might not be so bad afterall, as a new budding romance starts to take shape…

In this hilarious coming-of-age story, Rosie is obsessed with her ex-boyfriend, who despite being a terrible human being for cheating on her, is still the object of her affection. She’s just so caught up in their romance that she feels lost after their break-up. Fortunately, Rosie is a smart girl with lots of spark, and throughout the roadtrip, her eyes open and she comes to know herself better, regaining the strength and self-confidence she needs to get over this relationship.

Avatar, the Last Airbender

If your looking for a fun TV show that appeals to both kids and adults, check out Avatar, the Last Airbender. This cartoon has a great plot that will keep you interested until the very end.

The wold is divided into four nations (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air). Each nation’s people are able to manipulate their specific element. This manipulation is called “bending” and each nation’s bending is based off of a specific martial art (for example, water bending is based on tai chi, and fire bending is based on Northern Shaolin). There is one person who is born with the ability to bend all of the elements called the “Avatar,” this person is also in charge of keeping peace between the nations. However, when the Fire Nation decides to attack, the Avatar disappears.

A hundred years later, the Fire nation is now on the verge of dominating the entire world. But two siblings from the water tribe, Katara and Sokka, have just found the missing Avatar, a twelve-year-old boy named Aang, and his flying bison frozen in an iceberg. But can Aang learn to master all four elements and restore peace in time?

While this cartoon is not technically considered anime, it is heavily influenced by anime in it’s character designs. The fighting sequences are incredibly entertaining to watch and there are plenty of humorous moments which makes this cartoon a hit with the young and not-so-young.

If you enjoy the TV show, you should also check out the books, graphic novels, or even The Last Airbender movie that was directed by M. Night Shyamalan (disclaimer, if you are a big fan of the cartoon, this movie may miss the mark).

Hugo Awards


Hugo award finalists have been announced. The awards will be officially given at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention called Loncon 3 since it is the third time to be held in London, England. If you love scifi or fantasy, this is one of the largest and oldest annually held convention for fans (the first one was held in 1939 in NYC, and it has been held continuously since 1946). This year marks the 75th anniversary of the convention so in addition to the Hugo Awards, there are Retro-Hugo Awards honoring the best of scifi/fantasy from 1938. The following are this year's best novel nominees:

Ancillary justice by Ann Leckie: story focuses on the AI soldier, Breq, previously a starship now in a fragile human body; a space opera that will make you think what it is to be human vs AI; 1st part of the Imperial Radch series

Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross: multiple award winner Stross continues delving into the Freyaverse and our post-human descendants started in Saturn’s Children, followed by a short story called ‘Bit Rot’

Parasite by Mira Grant: a genetically engineered parasite that lives inside all humans delivering meds, protecting us from illness, and boosting our immune system? Sounds good until they start thinking on their own…1st in the Parasitology series. Mira Grant also writes award winning urban fantasy under the name Seanan McGuire , and has been nominated for Hugo awards for Feed and Deadline

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia: the series is available, and you can read a short prequel to it for free online called the Grimnoir Chronicles: Detroit Christmas

Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: anyone who knows scifi/fantasy has heard of this epic series that spans some 14 volumes with prequels; some J R R Tolkien influence, some Asian mythology…there was a computer game and a roleplaying game, even a soundtrack album Jordan died in 2007 and Sanderson picked up his notes for the final book and turned it into 3 books. Fans launched an online campaign to get the entire series nominated so it should be interesting to see if it wins!

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